This Mobile Barbershop And Shower Gives New Jersey Communities The Basic Needs They Deserve

Photo by Emma Ferschweiler

Walking into the mobile sanitary station at St. Matthews Church in Orange Township feels much like entering a hotel bathroom.

This is a feeling that Archangel Raphael’s Mission (ARM) believes should be accessible to anyone, especially communities lacking basic needs. 

From PB&Js To Mobile Barbershops

ARM first started in 2014 as a food service program when founders John and Kelsey Lynch handed out PB&J sandwiches at New Brunswick’s train station and provided family style community dinners to the homeless. But while helping the community, they realized there was a lack of services for basic hygiene and health resources for those in need. That’s when they started the mobile shower program and the barbershop program.

“It is so nice to see something that has an immediate effect on a person’s wellbeing, the barbershop program in particular. They walk into that trailer sometimes disgruntled, not having the best day. I’ve never seen anyone leave without a smile on their face,” said Kelsey Lynch, who is heavily involved in operations from hosing down the mobile showers to greeting guests with a smile.

ARM’s mobile shower program can only run during the warm weather months, but the barbershop trailer can be utilized all year round.

Lynch said their programs usually operate from May until October across New Jersey. The organization is employed every third Monday in Hoboken and every third Wednesday in the City of Orange, except June when it is the fourth Wednesday. In addition, they also deploy two shower trailers in New Brunswick every Saturday. 

Nonprofit organizations, such as Covenant House and North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI), among others, work closely with ARM to better help guests. Lynch told Slice of Culture that organizations like these, help connect them with locals and become a fixture in communities. 

One of ARM’s main clothing sponsor is Bombas. Bombas is different from most brands since the corporation sends a pair of socks or T-shirt to homeless initiatives with every purchase. Lynch said socks are the most requested item in shelters followed by underwear and undershirts, products ARM is well supplied with.

“We try to make our experiences as close to a luxury experience as possible,” Lynch said. 

“Monetary donations and barbers are the organization’s biggest demands currently. Funding not only supports the trailers but also hygiene packs filled with toothpaste, mouthwash, bandages, and other basics.”

When Lynch gets the chance, she sometimes gives supplies out on the highway or to anybody in need she passes by, stating the importance that a small gesture can do to change someone’s life. 

Looking Towards The Future

Last fall, ARM held a Dignity summit with the board president, Covenant House, NJCRI, Bombas representatives and Rutgers communications professor Brent Ruben discussing homelessness and needs to combat it. ARM intends to hold another event in the future to educate people about homelessness and similar issues. 

She said their services help empower communities to do more and make people less judgmental about others, which is one of the reasons why they want to expand their services throughout the state.
“It kind of spirals. You got a fresh shower. You have some fresh clothes. Now you’re more excited to try to get this new job or you’re more excited about doing something else because you feel good,” Lynch said.

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