By Rupert Clayton, HANC Board
HANC’s March meeting heard from two people whose organizations are working to bring comfort and cleanliness to homeless people in San Francisco, and potentially the Haight Ashbury.
Doniece Sandoval is the executive director of Lava Mae, which provides mobile showers in a converted former MUNI bus. The bus has two self-contained bathrooms, each with a shower, toilet, sink and hair dryer. Being able to take a shower helps people who are homeless retain some sense of dignity and self-worth, making it easier for them to engage with housing, health care and job training services. The service also brings broader benefits for sanitation and public health in the city.
At each location, the bus hooks up to a fire-hydrant, with disinfected grey water discharged into catch basins and the toilets emptied by a waste disposal company. With 15-minute sessions, each bus can serve 42 people during a six-hour shift. Lava Mae’s forward bathroom is accessible, thanks to the bus’s wheelchair lift, and they have found that 48% of customers have a disability. Buses are always staffed during service hours, and Lava Mae works closely with existing agencies and non-profits so that people have somewhere to wait before their shower and can find out about services they may need.