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Non-Profit Spotlight: Lava Mae

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

Volunteerism and non-profit advocacy are at the core of my work. That's why I want to feature a new organization each month, explaining who they serve, what they do, and how you can get involved with them.

This month's featured non-profit is Lava Mae. I don't remember how I heard about Lava Mae a few years ago, but I remember being so excited about the simple, and yet essential services they provide. Lava Mae uses showers and mobile grooming services to give poor people the dignity and love that they need.

Lava Mae bus
Lava Mae buses have showers and toilets built in to them.

Organization: Lava Mae


The problem: People living on the streets do not have easy access to showers, toilets, or essential hygiene products. This leads to a loss of dignity in the hearts of homeless people.

"Lava Mae has served 10,000+ guests who have taken 35,000+ showers on our mobile units across Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and innovated one-stop Pop-Up Care Villages to dramatically expand access to essential services for people living on the streets. We’ve also inspired dozens of new mobile hygiene programs across the U.S. and around the world, and recently launched the first-ever open source toolkit + platform to help people everywhere replicate our mobile hygiene service in their own communities."

The work: Lava Mae was started in San Francisco by Doniece Sandoval in 2013. They converted Muni (public transportation) buses into mobile showers and toilets. Homeless people can shower, get hair cuts, and receive hygiene products like deodorant, toenail clippers, socks and underwear.

Who they serve: People living on the streets in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. They also offer a BuildIt Toolkit that helps others replicate these services in other cities across the country.

How you can help: You can volunteer at one of Lava Mae's bus locations in San Francisco, Oakland or Los Angeles. You can also donate towards their general fund or donate specific hygiene products (I personally love this donation idea).

Charity Navigator ranking: N/A - Lava Mae has not existed for more than seven years, so they do not have a ranking yet.


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