Target: Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval
Goal: Applaud efforts to empower those experiencing homelessness through mobile hygiene stations
For people experiencing homelessness, the grime and odors of the streets can be the biggest giveaway that they have fallen on hard times. Showering once per week might be a luxury, and without regular access to facilities to maintain one’s hygiene, finding employment and housing can be impossible, no matter how relentlessly one searches. San Francisco native Doniece Sandoval was a comfortably situated marketing executive when one day she was struck by the injustice of the lack of facilities for those experiencing homelessness. Armed with the knowledge that San Francisco has just between 16 and 20 public showers available to its over 3,000 people experiencing homelessness, Sandoval quit her job and started a nonprofit organization called Lava Mae. Through an Indiegogo campaign she raised $75,000 to buy and retrofit a mobile hygiene unit – a bus decked out with showers, toilets, sinks, and changing rooms – that could access city water from fire hydrants and release used water into city sewer systems.
Sandoval’s design is a game changer because it brings hygiene to the people (who might lose out on public facilities due to a lack of resources or access to mass transit) and because she has sidestepped local government issues by refusing to screen participants, which has created unnecessary red tape for similar efforts across the country. Her staff of volunteers is also trained to deal with drug-related issues such as the administration of drugs to counteract opiates: instead of preparing to turn away addicts, they are preparing to accept and help them. Sandoval recently got her first bus up and running, and with two showers and a toilet she is determined to provide between 300 and 500 showers per week – for free, no questions asked. Her beta tests thus far have been successful, so she already has plans for three more buses. Nation Swell spoke to one participant, Silas Borden, who is no stranger to San Francisco’s streets. The five-year veteran commented, “Living on the streets, no matter how clean you try to stay, you’re going to be grimy, and I want to wash it off.”
By signing this petition, you are congratulating Doniece Sandoval for the successes of Lava Mae. You are thanking her for seeing a niche where she could make a difference in the lives of some of her city’s underprivileged residents, and for undertaking all the hard work that has gotten Lava Mae to this point.
Dear Doniece Sandoval,
I am inspired by the hard work you put into building Lava Mae and empowering San Francisco’s population of people experiencing homelessness. In recognizing their need for improved access to bathrooms and undertaking the campaign to fund your mobile sanitation units, you are recognizing that those experiencing homelessness deserve the dignity and self esteem that comes with the ability to maintain one’s hygiene.
Thank you for your dedication to providing basic sanitation services to those experiencing homelessness, who should be given the opportunity to take care of their own hygiene and therefore to empower themselves to acquire employment and housing. Congratulations on your recent successful beta test runs; I hope that other organizations around the country take inspiration from your example.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Steven Depolo via Flickr