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#OTGYpsi: FedUp Ministries provides free showering program for Washtenaw County's less fortunate residents


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Food-truck ministry adds free showers at Ypsilanti Warming Center

FedUp Ministries



FedUp Ministries on Facebook

FedUp Ministries on Instagram


Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. The January 2024 Washtenaw Continuum of Care data review found that 552 people were experiencing homelessness across the county at the end of 2023--a 15% increase since 2022. And a number of organizations in Ypsi and Ann Arbor are working with the area's unhoused population, hosting warming centers in the cold months, providing hot meals and groceries on a weekly basis, and now showers. The team at FedUp Ministries, an Ann Arbor-based food truck committed to serving meals with dignity and to redistributing wealth in the community, is working with the warming center at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse in Depot Town, not only providing meals to those coming to warm up during the day, but a mobile shower facility as well. The WashUp program launched in the summer of 2023 and partners with the City of Ypsilanti to keep WashUp's private showers and baths warm and bright. I'm here with FedUp Ministries Board President Tajalli Hodge, who works closely with FedUp's founder, Reverend Anna Taylor-McCants, to provide Ypsi's unhoused population with these dignifying services. Tajalli, thanks so much for being here.

Tajalli Hodge: Thanks for having me.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, the FedUp Ministries website states that FedUp Ministries was started up in 2020. The FedUp food truck has been around since around 2021, working to feed folks and reduce the stigma around being food insecure. Can you give me a look into the first few years of FedUp and what the initial reaction to the truck and how things are kind of going now?

Tajalli Hodge: Absolutely. We are so excited that we're able to continue this ministry. A lot of nonprofits kind of fail within those first couple of years, and we are very fortunate to be doing well and expanding. We started off, like you mentioned, in 2020, due to the exponential explosion of food insecurity that came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rylee Barnsdale: Right.

Tajalli Hodge: When I met Pastor Anna in my local neighborhood, she was working at a local church, and I was doing a lot of neighborhood revitalization work there. And one of the things that I did to try to help my community was to have a food pantry on my lawn, and that's really how we kind of connected. And she always had this idea of a pay-what-you-can cafe. I just want to feed people. And so, we naturally came together in that way. Our first year we served about 4000 meals. Then we served about 15,000 meals.

Rylee Barnsdale: Oh, wow! Big jump!

Tajalli Hodge: Big jump! And then, in at the end of 2023, we had served between 20 and 25,000 meals.

Rylee Barnsdale: Wow!

Tajalli Hodge: So, the need is there, and we are committed to meeting that need. Our services come out of the communication that we get from our community. We knew that there was this huge need for food. And then, in turn, about half of our guests at our food truck are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. And one of the things we heard from our guest was this lack of access to public bathrooms. Ypsi doesn't have any public bathrooms. Ypsi doesn't have public showers. And that's something that people need if they're going to be able to break that cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Rylee Barnsdale: Knowing that Ypsi doesn't have these kinds of public services available, is that mainly where the idea for a shower trailer came from?

Tajalli Hodge: Yeah. When we started our FedUp food truck, we always kind of had this idea of having a fleet of service vehicles that we can take out into the community. We talked about having like a mobile barbershop or something to bring additional services that are sometimes cost-prohibitive to people that we could help provide for free for folks. And so, the idea was not necessarily, exclusively, a shower truck, but we talked about a shower truck, a laundry truck, and other mobile services. But we really wanted to play to our strengths and meeting a need that nobody else is doing, right? So, we have folks in the community who sometimes do free haircuts. We have people who help with literacy. But one thing that there isn't anywhere is shower access. And so, that was the need that we heard from our guests, and we really committed to moving forward with that. And we've been fortunate to have great partners at Washtenaw County and Michigan Medicine to be able to allow us to purchase our shower vehicle, which we are now partnering with the City of Ypsi to provide these showers for free, four days a week at the warming center.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, chatting with Tajalli Hodge, the board president at FedUp Ministries. So, Tajalli, the purpose statement for WashUp from the FedUp website is to provide a dignified and private space for people to maximize hygiene through rejuvenating water. Can you kind of walk me through what exactly that means and what the work to accomplish that goal kind of looks like?

Kate Holcomb and Tajalli Hodge with the WashUp Ministries' mobile shower facility at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse.
Doug Coombe
Concentrate Media
Kate Holcomb and Tajalli Hodge with the WashUp Ministries' mobile shower facility at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse.

Tajalli Hodge: Yeah. Dignity is one of our founding values. And we strive to provide dignity in all of the work that we're doing throughout our programming. And part of dignity is making people feel safe and comfortable. I think we've all been in high school or at camp, and you have to share showers. And that's not great, right? If you don't feel good about yourself, you're not going to want to be vulnerable and expose yourself in that kind of group setting. And so, it was important for us to have individual shower stalls. And these aren't like you see at the gym where there's a shower curtain. And anybody could just kind of walk in and bother you. These are individual bathrooms that have a lock on the door, and people can be able to take their shower in peace and quiet. The floors are heated, so you have a good experience no matter what the weather is outside. And folks are able to kind of restore that dignity and clean themselves. And if Pastor Anna was here, she would talk to you about baptism and how water is really one of those things in the Bible that is important to replenishing your soul. The rejuvenating aspect, really, is that when you take a shower, that is self-care, and you feel good when you're able to take a shower, to be clean, to have warm food, and to have clean clothes on your body.

Rylee Barnsdale: I think, at the surface, many of us can see the importance of having access to high-quality food to a hot shower, just like you mentioned. Why is it important to FedUp's overall mission to provide this service in addition to food in addition to the--

Tajalli Hodge: Our LiftUp service.

Rylee Barnsdale: LiftUp. Thank you. Yeah. In addition to the LiftUp service as well that you do with Growing Hope, what makes this piece so important to the overall goal at FedUp?

Tajalli Hodge: That's a great question. And really what it comes down to is basic necessities we feel are a right and not a privilege. And we think that everybody deserves to have clean clothes, to have food, and to be able to shower and take care of yourself no matter what your financial status is, no matter where you work, no matter where you live, no matter where you're staying, everybody deserves the right to be fed, clothed, and clean. And so, for us, it's important because nobody can experience personal growth or go to work or go to school and thrive and be successful if they aren't having those basic needs met.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with FedUp Ministries board president Tajalli Hodge. So, like we mentioned, FedUp and WashUp are two of the three programs currently being held through the ministry. We mentioned LiftUp, the free breakfast and worship service, which is held on Sunday mornings with Growing Hope. But I'm curious about some of the other partnerships with Ypsi nonprofits or organizations that FedUp is working with. Can you give me a couple details on those?

Tajalli Hodge: Yeah, absolutely. So, of course, right now, we are partnering very closely with the Shelter Association and the folks who run the daytime warming center in Ypsi. Sherri Wandert does a great job over there. And we are also, like you mentioned, we partner with Growing Hope to host our LiftUp services on Sunday mornings. And we work with a variety of nonprofits. We work with Care-Based Safety in Ypsilanti as well, who are committed to providing de-escalation techniques when there is conflict in the community. And so, we have these partners who are able to help us do the best work that we can, while other people are also receiving services that they need.

Rylee Barnsdale: And it's my understanding, too, that there are some conversations happening at FedUp to bring both the food truck and shower trailer to other locations, other churches, throughout Ypsi to events. You mentioned this idea for a pay-what-you-can cafe. Is there anything that you can share now about what the future of FedUp kind of looks like?

Tajalli Hodge: Yes, absolutely! So, like I mentioned, we are growing exponentially. And right now, we're sharing space at a local church in Ann Arbor. We want to be able to have our own location that is just FedUp, where we have space to operate a pay-what-you-can cafe where people can come and receive free meals, where people can donate what they can and where people can take showers. And the plan is also to have a laundry facility where people can clean their clothes. And we want that to be operational seven days a week if we have the capacity. So, that is what we're working toward. And you can expect to see FedUp in a new location very soon.

Rylee Barnsdale: And if folks listening feel inspired by FedUp's mission and work, where can they learn more or find opportunities to volunteer and get involved?

Tajalli Hodge: Yeah. So, feel free to check out our website, FedUp ministries.org. And there, you can find information about how to sign up, how to donate, and how to spend more time with us.

Rylee Barnsdale: And hours for the truck and for the shower trailer are also there as well, right?

Tajalli Hodge: Yes. And also on our social media pages, so you can find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, thank you so much, Tajalli, for coming in today and telling us a bit more about FedUp Ministries and what's new and what's to come. It sounds like there's some things happening behind the scenes that folks in Ypsi can get excited for.

Tajalli Hodge: Yeah, awesome! Thank you so much for having me, Rylee.

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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