Lava Mae began with a noble goal: to restore dignity to those moving through homelessness by providing them with showers and sanitation. They achieved this by repurposing city buses as mobile hygiene stations.
By converting decommissioned city buses into mobile shower units with toilets, the organization has served approximately 4,000 individuals with over 18,000 showers and sanitation services. The repurposed buses allow the organization to bring services directly to people and areas with high concentrations of homeless people, “to deliver hygiene and rekindle dignity for our homeless guests.”
Founded by Doniece Sandoval, Lava Mae launched its bus mobile hygiene service in San Francisco in June of 2014, supported by private individuals who believe that “access to showers and toilets shouldn’t be a luxury.”
“Today,” states Lava Mae, “we’re bringing humanity, innovation, and collaboration to the way services are delivered to those experiencing homelessness. We do this by bringing critical services — delivered with an unexpected level of care that we call “radical hospitality” — to the street through programs such as our mobile hygiene service and our new Pop-Up Care Villages.”
The repurposed bus mobile hygiene units have dramatically raised awareness about the lack of access to showers and basic hygiene across the country. The project has to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, and has fielded thousands of requests to replicate the services in other cities. More than 15 mobile hygiene units across the U.S. and other countries have been inspired by the project to set up their own versions of mobile hygiene units.
While the original converted city bus is still providing showers and sanitation to those moving through homelessness in San Francisco, Lava Mae is scaling the project by creating free open source toolkits to help others replicate the mobile hygiene services in other cities.
This project and dozens of others are featured in the Reprogramming the City Book!