Showers for the Homeless – San Francisco Style!

A woman in San Francisco has come up with an ingenious idea to turn old public buses into showering facilities for the city’s homeless people.

Doniece Sandoval, a 51 year old PR executive and mother of one, decided to do something for the 3,400 homeless people in San Francisco. Currently, there are only 16 shower stalls available to them across the city, with very limited opening hours.

Sandoval said she got the idea after seeing a young, filthy homeless woman crying. Sandoval said “She kept saying over and over again she would never be clean, I knew she probably meant that in a lot of ways, but a light bulb went off.” She thought, if we can provide gourmet food on wheels, why not showers?

As someone who had always cared about people on the streets – donating money and time volunteering for homeless charities – she came up with the idea to transform decommissioned Muni buses into shower stalls and drive them to homeless centres. Something as simple as a shower can give people dignity, as well as help them get ready for job interviews. The programme is called Lava Mae (deriving from the Spanish “Lavame” meaning “wash me”.

Doniece now works full time for the programme, which is set to launch in March. Lava Mae currently has one bus, with three more set to join the programme if it is successful. The buses will be painted blue to give them a new look and each bus will have two hygiene units consisting of a shower, sink, toilet, mirror, changing room and bench. The programme will have three staff members (including Doniece herself), as well as a volunteer social worker who will be advising homeless people about other services available to them. There will be no charge to use the facilities, and the programme will operate completely on donations and grants.


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