By: Mahmoud Abunie

As the homeless population in San Francisco continues to increase and become an unsolvable issue, Lava Mae has come up with an innovative way to create a small, yet effective solution for the homeless population to take a shower in a safe and clean environment.

The name comes from from the Spanish word “lavame” which means “wash me.” The objective of Lava Mae is to reduce illness and self-isolation within the San Francisco homeless population, while empowering them for employment.

Lava Mae is a bus with two shower units inside that will be able to travel around the city in old and donated buses from Muni and other organizations.

Lava Mae, which is hoping to attain consistent funding to increase their fleet, will be able to get to locations across the city and become accessible to the nearly 7,400 homeless people in the city. Currently, there are only eight locations in the entire city with no more than two showers per location. Lava Mae will use fire hydrants as a means for water (and pay the city for its consumption) and use its own water heaters.

Could this be an effective government-nonprofit partnership?

Lava Mae has partners across a number of sectors: non-profit, government and private that include a variety of services and funding so they can continue the program. The pilot program recently started in June 2014 and will go into full service beginning in the spring of 2015 with a fleet of four buses, providing nearly 2,000 showers per week! The program is the first of its kind and Lava Mae hopes that it reaches many different places around the world. They have been in contact with 25 cities around the world that are interested in implementing the program.

Check out this video about the project, and the hardworking team that’s making it happen.

“Over and over again, people said, You are crazy and we love this idea and we will support you if you go out and get it done.” Awesome.

This innovative pilot project is not intended to ultimately solve the issue of homelessness, but to make sure that the homeless population, at the very least, will have an opportunity to receive a clean and safe place to take a shower. It’s a small step on an issue of great magnitude for any city, but it’s a step forward nonetheless.