How many times a day do you shower? Once? Twice? Three times in the summer? For someone living on the streets, this mundane ritual of personal hygiene is far less regular, and the implications can be ruinous. Without access to the ability to maintain common standards of cleanliness, homeless people often become further ostracized from society. Without the ability to shower, such individuals are denied access to jobs, refused service, or avoided, perpetuating the cycle poverty and helplessness.
While there is obviously a need for shower access among homeless people, the best way to reach this transient population is far from clear. Shelters are notoriously crowded and public facilities are few and far between, but what if the shower was as mobile as the individuals it served? That is the idea behind Lava Mae, a San Francisco nonprofit with the stated aim of “Delivering dignity one shower at a time.”
In order to accomplish this, the organization outfitted a bus with free, hot showers to provide portable hygiene solutions to the homeless. The vehicle contains two stalls, outfitted with everything someone would find at home: soap, shampoo, and fresh towels. The prototype cost around $75,000 to purchase and retrofit, which was funded by a $100,000 grant from Google through the company’s Impact Challenge; a philanthropic fund for nonprofits with “bright ideas for a better Bay Area.” The initiative was launched in the wake of the outrage over the company’s commuter buses that emerged around San Francisco in the last year. It’s not clear if this donation will silence their critics, but we don’t expect to see any outraged protesters surrounding this Google funded bus.