San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the United States to live. Rental prices in the city are so high that only Google employees (and other high paid positions) are able to even rent in the city.

Smaller homes can cost millions of dollars in the quirky city.

One of the issues facing the city is the uptick in homeless people. Residents that were once able to afford living in their own homes are now out on the streets. The issue has grown to the point where one woman in the city has come up with a great idea: showers for the homeless.

lava mae

Doniece Sandoval’s Generosity Shines

Doniece is a 51-year-old public relations executive who realized that there is a growing issue in San Francisco. The mother of one decided that it was time to do something about the growth of the homeless in the city.

She wanted to help residents – not remove them from the city.

Many of these people are down on their luck, and the prospect of finding a job is bleak when you’re covered in mud. Doniece took action and decided to start a mobile shower that ran inside of decommissioned Muni buses.

The idea came from an encounter Sandoval had with a homeless woman who was crying that she would never be clean again.

San Francisco’s homeless population has grown to 3,400 people. There are just 16 shower stalls available to the homeless in the city, making it nearly impossible to get a regular shower.

An avid volunteer that helps the homeless, Sandoval started Lava Mae.

Homeless shower

The goal of the program is to offer showers to the homeless. The buses are equipped with showers and drives to the homeless centers in the city so that everyone has the opportunity to shower. Many of the people that have been helped by the program say that it has allowed them to find jobs as a result.

Two hygiene units are equipped in each bus with a:

  • Shower
  • Toilet
  • Mirror
  • Changing room and bench

And the people working at Lava Mae have taken it upon themselves to educate the people that use their free service about the programs that are available to them.

Electric showers are able to provide consistent hot water to the on-board showers, allowing people that use them to enjoy the comforts of a hot shower.

Moving Forward with Helping the Homeless

The dedication of Sandoval has led to life-changing benefits for the people that she has been able to help. The company, Lava Mae, has been the honoree of several awards and is routinely in the news.

The company runs its own blog on tumblr and consists of four people.

A recent event was thrown by the company in which they developed a pop-up care village. Lava Mae’s Pop-up Care Village came to the city’s Civic Center and featured showers, clean clothes, dental care services and ID vouchers. The event also had music and coffee.

The event brought together numerous organizations that aim to help the homeless in San Francisco.

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