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Lava Mae Helps Bridge Hygiene Gap For Unhoused Population

A Lava Mae shower trailer (Courtesy Lava Mae)
A Lava Mae shower trailer (Courtesy Lava Mae)

Doniece Sandoval, 57, and her family used to live in a diverse, middle-class neighborhood in San Francisco. But after the Great Recession, gentrification struck, turning their community into an unaffordable area.

"We watched as three of our neighbors — all gentlemen in their 80s -- get evicted from their homes and take up residence in their cars and, one by one, eventually have those repossessed," Doniece says.

Listen to our full episode here (the Lava Mae segment starts at 8:24)

The men ended up on the streets, and Doniece was shaken by what happened. She began to volunteer, and through her charity work, she saw just how expansive the unhoused population is in the Bay Area. She wanted to do something more meaningful, so she started connecting with local civic groups and speaking to unhoused people, asking them what they needed. And she noticed a trend: It was difficult for them to take care of their hygiene.

A mosaic of Lava Mae guests (Photo provided by Lava Mae)
A mosaic of Lava Mae guests (Photo provided by Lava Mae)

This inspired her to start Lava Mae, a mobile showering unit on the ground in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, that allows unhoused people to take showers privately and safely. Doniece says her organization practices "radical hospitality": recognizing the humanity in every member of the community, treating everyone with kindness and compassion, and uplifting those in need by showing empathy and respect.

Find more information on Lava Mae on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and on its website. You can also help Lava Mae's mission to fund more on-the-ground mobile showering units through its partnership with The Right To Shower.

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