How Lava Mae's Hot Showers for the Homeless Restore Dignity, Create Community

Being homeless shouldn't equal being neglected.  Lava Mae.org delivers love from a bus in the form of a hot shower. Founder Doniece Sandoval speaks with NotImpossibleNow.com's Kyle Gold about the community she's creating.
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Being homeless shouldn't equal being neglected.  Lava Mae.org delivers love from a bus in the form of a hot shower. Founder Doniece Sandoval speaks with NotImpossibleNow.com's Kyle Gold about the community she's creating.

Not Impossible Now: Why LavaMae.org - how'd it come to fruition?

Doniece Sandoval: I have watched [San Francisco] sort of explode with people on the streets. We've seen too many of our neighbors move from their homes to their cars to the streets and then we've lost sight of them. One day I passed a young woman living on the street who was homeless and dirty and crying that she would never be clean. So I went home to find out what her chances were for actually getting physically clean and found out that, at the time, there were about sixteen shower stalls for 3,500 people, which was utterly shocking to me, and I knew that I had to do something.

I had a fascination, an obsession, almost, with mobile food. If you could put gourmet food in the world and take it anywhere why not showers and toilets? So the idea for Lava Mae was born.

What's the ideal benefit you're providing to the people you serve?

I think one of the things in addition to helping people get clean is that we're building relationships with people. We know their names, we are hearing their stories. We know, from week to week, if it's been a good week or a bad week or if there are things they're looking forward to. It's really about creating connection and building a little bit of community so that people don't feel so alone and invisible in this city.

What we sort of realized is that we, on the ground here, can capture certain anecdotal information, we can try and find out, "Did people get to apply for jobs," and "Was their health maintained?" But it's not enough. 

What would you conquer if you could?

We need to be able to empower our guests to be able to do some self tracking. Right now it's kind of an impossible problem but we think we can bring some technology providers and developers together to create a solution, an app that would enable them to do self tracking. Then we could collect this incredible amount of data on who people are, what's impacting their lives, what's making a difference and what the obstacles are, which is something that doesn't really exist right now.    

For more information about Lava Mae, visit their site here.

And check out their beautiful launch video, here: