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The Periscope

Curing Ignorance Through the Lens

Hop On, Wash Off


A refurbished bus provides mobile showers for the homeless.

Imagine having to sign up and wait on a list to take a shower. Or using your local library’s bathroom to wash up. In San Francisco, there are approximately 7,000 homeless people and only eight facilities with showers (most of which are concentrated in the downtown area). Recognizing this problem, and believing that access to sanitation is a human right, an organization called Lava Mae (which means ‘wash me’ in Spanish) has created a mobile shower bus outfitted with two showers, changing areas, and even skylights. The bus has a hot water system installed and hooks up to fire hydrants for a water supply.

Founder Doniece Sandoval worked with designers to outfit the bus and is also collaborating with local organizations to see how the bus can be utilized most effectively. She says, “I just thought if you can put gourmet food on wheels and take it anywhere, why not showers and toilets?” Lava Mae is hoping to develop a fleet of four buses by spring of 2015 which they project would provide about 2,000 showers a week. Sandoval adds, “Lava Mae’s not about ending homelessness. What we are about is providing hygiene because we believe that hygiene brings dignity. And dignity opens up opportunity.”   

Photo by Waleed Alzuhair, licensed under Creative Commons.