They come by the thousands; migrant farm workers who spend tireless days toiling in the dirt.
They harvest the very grapes, bell peppers and carrots that fill our produce aisles and our bellies.
Meanwhile, their living conditions could make your stomach turn.
“They spend the night in their vehicles and do not have a place for a warm shower and where to wash their clothes,” said Lupe Torres, office manager at the Galilee Center in Mecca.
The Galilee Center provides food, clothing and other basic needs to low-income families in the East Valley. Beginning next year, it’ll also be the site of the Mecca Comfort Station, a permanent bathroom, laundry and rest area for the area’s migrant farm workers.
“It’s going to make it easy for them to come home or come get off of work after long day’s work and take a warm shower,” Torres said.
When renovated, the 8,000 square foot space will include men’s and women’s restrooms, eight washing machines and dryers, and even a community center with TVs.
The station is the final part of an agreement between Riverside County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve the working and living conditions of farm workers.
Since the year 2000, the county has also created nearly 10,000 affordable housing units, but many of the workers still can’t afford them and instead sleep in cars or flattened cardboard boxes.
The Galilee Center hopes giving them a place to bathe and get fresh clothes will also a return a sense of dignity to their spirits.
“They’re human beings too,” Torres said.
The county has committed $1.2 million to construct the station and $75,000 a year for the next 10 years in operation costs.
The project is expected to be completed in the spring, just in time for the busiest season for migrant farm workers in Mecca.