In San Francisco, there are more than 7350 people who are homeless in the downtown area, and unfortunately there are only seven places for them to shower or use the restroom.
Lava Mae, a San Francisco-based non-profit company started by private citizens, has converted city buses into a place where the homeless can shower and use the bathroom. The mobile bathrooms ensure this model will be sustainable, as they aren’t paying rent and are able to move to various places around the city.
In the video, engagement director for Lava Mae, Leah Filler, says: “This is a city where homelessness is scattered across the city. By using a bus, not only can we bring our service across the city where there is need, we also avoid getting evicted.”
The buses use the city’s fire hydrants as a source of water, and each bus is able to provide 2000 showers a week. So they know where to find the “shower bus,” Lava Mae sends out a schedule regularly of where they be in the city.
But these buses are more than just a place to have a shower; they are restoring dignity and hope to the homeless.
Not having a shower can prohibit homeless from finding appropriate housing, as going on a job interview or applying for a house could become difficult.
In the video, a homeless man called Steve says: “I’ve been homeless for 10 months. And I’ve got an MBA in finance from Stanford.” The reporter asks: “How did this happen?”
He replies: “We’re just one pay check away.”
In the video, Leah goes on to say: “We call what we do radical hospitality. It’s about how the rest of the community views the homeless.”
So how did Lava Mae come up with this idea? Well, according to their website: “It started with one woman, homeless in San Francisco, crying that she would never be clean. Founder Doniece Sandoval heard her cries. Those words, a desire to help those experiencing homelessness and a crazy obsession with the mobile food truck movement set in motion what eventually became Lava Mae.”
This model is really working and helping those without a place to live. I hope to see it in other cities.