WASH ME (Water Article 3) by Tom Grode

lavamaeWash me in Spanish is lava mae.

Lava Mae is the name for a San Francisco community effort to serve the homeless population of San Francisco by offering mobile showers and bathrooms.

Lava Mae was birthed from an epiphany experienced by San Francisco corporate executive Doenice Sandoval.  After hearing a cab driver refer to San Francisco as a land of broken dreams, she began to look at the city differently and when she encountered a homeless woman crying out “I need to be clean”, Sandoval took the cry literally.

Over the past two years, Sandoval has slowly built a strategy to provide mobile showers for the homeless positively embraced by the government, non-profits serving the homeless, the business community, and the media.

The first Lava Mae bus, a retrofitted retired city bus, is due on the streets this May containing two sets of a shower, a toilet, a changing room, and a sink with mirror.

The larger vision of Lava Mae is to work with other cities on similar issues with a goal of creating an international online community helping one another deal with sanitation and hygiene issues in urban areas.

Over the past year, Lava Mae has been interacting with numerous people and groups in Los Angeles.  This past March 28th Leah Filler, Community Engagement and Mobile Services Manager for Lava Mae, took a ninety minute tour of Skid Row.

On April 7, a ten page proposal by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana was delivered to the City Council and released to the media.  The proposal suggests an additional two million dollars expand Operation Healthy Streets.  Part of the two million targets increased toilet and shower services for the homeless in Skid Row.

n April 9, this proposal sparked a Twitter exchange which turned into a group email involving Doenice Sandoval and Leah Filler in San Francisco and several people in Los Angeles, some Skid Row residents and others throughout the city.

On April 15, the dialogue continued with a San Francisco/Los Angeles conference call.

The issue of toilets and public hygiene has been a very serious one in Skid Row for many years.  A variety of people and groups have wrestled with finding solutions and continue to wrestle.  How Lava Mae fits into this bigger picture is a puzzle to put together.

By Tom Grode

Blogger’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Trees on San Pedro Street Project editrix, Ms. McNenny. This is a Community improvement blog and not faith-based.

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