The next time you moan and groan about being asked to take a shower, think about this statistic - there are about 1.2 billion people in the world that do not have access to sanitation facilities. Even more shocking is the fact that many of them live in developed countries. Now, San Francisco-based startup Lava Mae, is trying to change that with a simple but brilliant idea - transforming decommissioned buses into mobile showers for the homeless.
According to the company's founder Doniece Sandoval, every bus will be retrofitted with two separate private areas, each with a shower stall, sink, changing area, toilet and bench. Sandoval envisions that if everyone sticks to a five-minute shower, a single Lava Mae bus could provide service to about 100 people, during each eight to 10-hour shift. Also, since the water will be sourced from the city's numerous fire hydrants, the bus will completely mobile, allowing the company to service different areas of the city, every day of the week.
In order to keep costs as low as possible, Sandoval began by convincing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation officials to donate four decommissioned buses. She also established partnerships with design firms, as well as, faucet manufacturers like Kohler, and even non-profit organizations like Project Homeless Connect.
It has taken two years, but in May 2014, Lava Mae will roll out its first mobile shower bus on the streets of San Francisco. Once all the kinks have been worked out, three others will be deployed. This will be a huge bonus for the 3,000 + homeless that currently have only a handful of options to choose from. The fact that the shower buses will be mobile will be certainly help the, given that they can track down the needy instead, of the other way round.
Sandoval says that she first became cognizant about the issue, when a cab driver announced 'Welcome to the land of broken dreams', whilst passing through San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, which is known for both its successful hi-tech startups like Twitter and a burgeoning population of homeless people. But it was not until much later, after hearing a homeless woman's repeated cry about 'never being clean again', that she had her 'eureka' moment and knew exactly what she could do to help. While Lava Mae is currently focused on the city of San Francisco, there is no reason that the idea cannot be emulated all over the globe!