Travis Kelleher was in his early 30s and homeless when he died from a drug overdose in Bangor, Maine, in 2016.
His father, Peter Kelleher, was left grieving the loss of a son he was powerless to save.
“I tried, he tried,” Kelleher told The Boston Globe about his son who battled addiction. “I knew I was going to get that call, and I did. My life will never be the same, but I’m the same as everyone else who’s had to deal with this.”
Kelleher, from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, began coping with his grief by making soup and handing it out to the homeless people in his community.
He became known as the Soupman, making large, nourishing vats of soup all winter long to ease the suffering of those who were in similar predicaments as his late son.
In 2017, Kelleher began to expand his mission to serve the homeless, handing out backpacks stuffed with hats, gloves, toiletries and hand warmers.
But soup and backpacks were just the beginning of what has become a larger-scaled mission to help homeless people throughout the New England region. Kelleher started Support the Soupman, a non-profit organization that fundraises to benefit the homeless.
On June 10, Kelleher and his team unveiled the first of many portable showers that will be made available to the homeless in Brockton, Massachusetts, each week.
“Everybody should be able to take a shower and put clean socks on,” Kelleher told WCVB.
An estimated 25 to 30 people used the new portable shower, stationed outside of The Haven, a homeless center located in downtown Brockton.
Each person who used the shower received fresh clothing, new towels, toiletries, and gently used sneakers.
“They came out with all new clothes on — they were smiling,” Kelleher told The Enterprise. “That’s what it’s all about. Just to put a smile on someone’s face that just have nothing (and) have nothing to look forward to. We all take so much for granted, whether it’s a shower or a clean pair of socks.”
Watching around two dozen people benefit from the free shower, Tara Hall, board member for The Haven, was encouraged.
“It really gives me some hope that we may be on the right track to helping our homeless situation here,” Hall said. “Nobody wants anyone out on the street.”
Kelleher plans to expand the portable shower project and has his heart set on placing one in Bangor, Maine, where his son passed away.
Kelleher stands in awe of the many ways he has been able to make a difference in his community, bringing hope to so many hearts.
“I’m amazed,” Kelleher said. “I never, ever expected for this to be where it is from me passing out hot soup. This is past my wildest dreams. And there’s so much more to do.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.