Homeless does not mean hopeless. This is the guiding conviction of a quite remarkable nonprofit called Hope Vibes.
Founded in 2016 by Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt, the organization was created after Adrienne Threatt watched and shared a video on social media depicting the challenges women living on the streets face. Along with many others, Adrienne Threatt was shocked, outraged and saddened. But the video ultimately served as an inspiration to take action and make a difference.
Initially, the couple and a few friends collected hygiene products to meet the needs of the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hope Vibes notes that, to this day, they receive personal hygiene product donations and welcome excited volunteers from all over the city and beyond.
Even after providing personal hygiene products to their homeless community, the Threatts found one sad reality lingering in the backs of their minds. The people they were helping still didn’t have the everyday pleasure of taking a shower, something Emmanuel Threatt counts as “a basic American right” and privilege most people take for granted.
After identifying this basic hygienic need among the homeless community, Hope Vibes moved to promote personal dignity with the creation of The Hope Tank, an eco-friendly mobile shower and laundry center.
“Our idea was to bring full bathing and laundry facilities to our homeless community, so they don’t have to leave the place they call home to take a shower,” says Emmanuel Threatt.
To provide a sense of privacy, safety and comfort to their guests, the Threatts and their friends sought to bring what started as an idea on a whiteboard to life. This led to the purchase of a 24-foot box truck with enough room for not only two full baths and laundry facilities, but also a black and gray water tank for waste collection and a freshwater tank for on-board water supply.
“The box truck started as a blank canvas — nothing but space,” says Emmanuel Threatt. “So our main challenge was to find a compact way to plumb a bathroom in a space where it seemed impossible.”
“I ended up talking to a friend of mine, Todd Jones, who works for an organization called Metrolina Baptist Association,” explains Emmanuel Threatt. “They have a mobile-shower trailer, and he mentioned they use a macerator pump for drainage — something I had never heard of.”
So Emmanuel Threatt started researching online and came across the Saniflo solution. After reaching out to Saniflo’s technical team, Threatt was confident that the recommended (and eventually donated) Saniflo products would be the perfect solution for The Hope Tank.
Hope Vibes enlisted the help of professional remodeler John Parker, owner of Shadow 1 Painting & Drywall for the installation. The company offers a wide range of professional services, ranging from interior and exterior painting to drywall installation/repair, and remodeling.
When stepping into the Hope Tank, there is a bathroom to your left and your right. Each equipped with a shower, sink and toilet. The laundry facilities consist of a washer and dryer.
“We simply translated our home-remodeling knowledge base to the creation of these mobile bathrooms, and applied the same design themes that we would use in a house,” Parker says. “We were thrilled to have been a part of creating a space to which our homeless community can escape and experience a different reality.”
The black and gray water from the sinks, showers, toilets and washing machine is pumped into the top of a 400-gallon storage tank inside the truck. To perform that task, Parker and his team installed two Sanigrind Pro grinder systems and the Sanicom 1 drain pump from Saniflo.
A Sanigrind Pro unit is situated behind the toilet in each bath and separated by a finished panelboard. Parker’s team also ensured that they have easy access to the units for service work by installing an access panel in the wall.
The Sanigrind Pro is a 1 hp pump system used to install a complete bathroom up to 25 feet below the sewer line and up to 150 feet away from the soil stack. In this case, the discharge pipe from the first Sanigrind pro runs 3 feet before connecting to the blackwater tank. The second unit’s discharge pipe runs approximately 15 feet before connecting to the tank.
The Sanigrind Pro grinder system is ideal for public restroom applications because the system is designed to handle larger sanitary products flushed down the toilet; e.g., condoms, sanitary napkins, q-tips, dental floss, etc.
A Sanicom 1 is a 1 hp pump for draining gray water from the washing machine into the storage tank, whose cleanout pipe empties into the city sewage system. The Sanicom 1 is engineered to discharge gray water away from a variety of fixtures up to 25 feet vertically and/or 250 feet horizontally. The gray water enters the Sanicom 1 via 2-inch low inlets, located on either side of the pump housing. The discharge elbow on top of the Sanicom1 can be rotated 360°, depending on the needs of the discharge line. A non-return valve, provided with the system, prevents backflow into the unit, which also has a vent connection on top.
According to Emmanuel Threatt, the fact that the Sanigrind Pro units could process almost any kind of sanitary product was a deciding factor for them. “We had to be sure the system could handle an uncontrolled environment with many, many users over time,” he says. “We didn’t want to worry about clogging.”
Another big challenge was maximizing space, and Emmanuel Threatt says Saniflo offered the most space-friendly solution. “These units are so compact that nobody will even realize they’re there.”
According to Parker, The Hope Tank was a straightforward, uneventful installation: “Anybody with experience in construction can install these units, because they fit perfectly into the normal flow of things,” he says.
Emmanuel Threatt and Parker both say they were confident in the product, based on their research and supported by a high level of customer service. Any challenges they faced were not because of the product, says Parker. “I mean, we built this entire facility in the back of a box truck, so fitting everything into such tight spaces was the real challenge.”
Parker says he sees himself using the Saniflo solution in other situations. “A good amount of our client base is interested in basement remodels, and this is the perfect solution to easily create a new bathroom.”
The Hope Tank will provide 25 to 50 showers a day and handle 15 to 20 loads of laundry, Hope Vibes estimates.
“We’ve had a couple of test runs, and everything works the way it needs to,” says Emmanuel Threatt. “At the end of the day, the success of The Hope Tank relies on the strength of community partnerships, so we are thrilled that we were able to partner with Saniflo.”