GOOD

How We're Bringing Showers to the Homeless

One day two years ago, I happened to pass a young woman sitting on the street. She was crying and saying over and over to herself that she'd never be clean. I live in San Francisco, where it's impossible to be unaware of the homeless.

One day two years ago, I happened to pass a young woman sitting on the street. She was crying and saying over and over to herself that she’d never be clean. I live in San Francisco, where it’s impossible to be unaware of the homeless. For years, I’d wanted to do more than volunteer or donate to an organization. But it wasn’t until that day that I took action, inspired by the words of the young woman.


I knew her challenges were deeper than I could imagine, but a light bulb went on in my head as I thought about how I might be able to help her get superficially clean. That night I began to research shower resources for San Francisco’s homeless and was shocked by what I learned: there are approximately 16 shower stalls for the more than 3,000 men, women, and children that make the streets of this city home.

At the same time, the food truck craze was at its height. If we could put gourmet food on trucks and take it anywhere, I thought, why not showers and toilets?

I did some research and found I wasn’t the first person to think about this. There are about half a dozen mostly small communities around the country—all led by faith-based groups—using converted mobile homes and horse trailers and, in some cases, even commercial shower units. I talked to all of them and they told me stories of transformation; that the homeless using their mobile showers “felt human for the first time in a long time” or “were recovering their sense of dignity.” I thought, if they could do it, so could we—and so our project, Lava Mae, was born.

What hit me next was the stark reality that I had no experience with the homeless and that if I didn’t engage the organizations that were doing this well, I would fail.

My first chat was with Jennifer Friedenbach from the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. I was terrified she’d be dubious about the idea and about my inexperience and general naiveté about this issue. Instead, her response was the exact opposite. And she, like every other homeless service provider I talked to afterwards, said the same thing: how can we help you get this off the ground?

Since then, we’ve continued to build support and partnership with nonprofits serving the homeless.

We’ve also secured the donation of retired MUNI buses and the authorization from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to access to water via fire hydrants, all because of Bevan Dufty at the Mayor’s Office of HOPE (Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement), who has been instrumental to our progress.

After our IndieGoGo campaign, we hope to be on the streets of San Francisco by early 2014, providing upwards of 80 showers per day. By 2015, we’ll have four buses on the road offering 240 showers per day five to six days a week. That amounts to more than 1440 opportunities for the city’s homeless to get clean.

The bigger vision, however, is to share this with communities around the world. We’re working to create a replicable model that will guide anyone interested in launching something similar. We’ve already had interest from people in other cities throughout California, Atlanta, and even as far away as strife-riddled Cairo, Egypt.

This project will be featured in GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

Image courtesy of Andrea Starr Reese

Articles
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics