In San Francisco — land of innovative start-ups, public transportation, and a sizable homeless population — a new experiment is underway: converting former public buses into traveling shower stalls for folks in need.
Our sister station KQED has the story of Lava Mae, a week-old venture in the city's Bayview neighborhood that uses a former Muni bus outfitted with two shower stalls — one of which is wheelchair accessible. Both come complete with hairdryer, toilet and sink.
Doniece Sandoval, who backed the project, said she was inspired to embark on the campaign after learning that the city has 3,000 unsheltered homeless, but only 20 public showers.
The idea for Lava Mae came together as Sandoval thought about the popularity of food trucks, wondering why gourmet food could travel on wheels but not showers. As she researched the idea, she found other communities in the country that had transformed horse trailers and mobile homes into mobile showers.
At the same time, Sandoval read in the news that San Francisco was planning to replace its old Muni diesel buses. “That’s when everything went, ‘Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!’ We’ve got to get a Muni bus.”
The city donated a retired bus, and its conversion was sponsored by a $75,000 online fundraising campaign. Kohler donated and installed the bathroom fixtures. Dr. Bronner’s donated the soap.
You can hear the full story below, or read more on KQED's website.