This amazing project is the brainchild of Doniece Sandoval, who founded the nonprofit organization to help the 6,436 homeless residents of San Francisco. Realizing the lack of public bathrooms and showers (only 8 for the 6,436), she came up with the novel idea of taking old, unused city buses and turning them into fully functioning showers.
The city donated four decommissioned municipal buses to Lava Mae and gave permission to the organization to tap into fire hydrants.
Lava Mae got funding from various sources, including $58,000 from an Indiegogo campaign and individual donations.
One of the buses has already started functioning.
The buses, designed in consultation with homeless people, have individual shower pods designated for men and women separately, as well as one designed specifically for people with disabilities.
The buses will be driven by volunteer bus drivers and will travel the city, making stops at partner organizations serving the homeless, with a goal to provide 100-125 showers per bus per day. Once all four buses are ready, organizers intend provide 400-500 showers every day.
"We’re mobile because we want to reach people where they are,” says Sandoval.
What’s more, they promise, “To be as sustainable as possible, we are exploring the use of incinerator toilets, which need no water, recycling gray water where possible, and utilizing solar power.”
According to the United Nations and World Health Organization, access to sanitation and water is a basic human right. But for the 610,042 homeless in America, sanitation is a rare commodity. It exposes them to socio-economical problems like ill health, lack of opportunities for jobs and low self-esteem.
While many would just like lamenting and talking about the problems of the homeless, there are very few who have enough compassion to actually do something about it. Thankfully Sandoval and her team are hard at work.