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San Francisco Shower Bus Gives Homeless A Place To Get Clean

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Lava Mae shower bus.

Lava Mae shower bus.

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) — San Francisco has 3500 homeless people living on the streets and just seven facilities for them to wash up.

Relief is on the way.

From a distance, it looks like a food truck, but step inside and it’s clear, there’s no food here. It’s called a Lava Mae.

Doniece Sandoval is the founder. She came up with the idea of converting old Muni buses into showers two years ago.

“Each of our buses has two complete bathrooms with a shower, sink, toilet and changing room,” said Sandoval. “It’s been in idea stage for so long, to actually see the result is unbelievable.”

The shower buses will run off city fire hydrants. Lava Mae worked out a deal with the city to use and pay for the water.

The great recession drained the number of city shower facilities from ten to seven, forcing the homeless to put their names on waiting lists just to clean up. Sandoval hopes to fill the gap the city left behind while helping the homeless get back on their feet.

“With hygiene comes dignity, and with dignity comes opportunity,” said Sandoval. “So hopefully, it will open other doors for people.”

Crystal Hart feels it will help a lot of people. She is homeless. In her darkest days, she’s gone two weeks without a shower and said it feels like a vacation to step back in a shower again.

“It helped me a lot because it got my mind back open to ‘this isn’t what you want to do’,” said Hart. “This isn’t how you want to be, you do have the resources to help yourself, so try to use them.”

The shower bus is one such resource. But it’s a pricey solution.

It costs $75,000 to convert a Lava Mae bus. Still, this Bay Area idea is quickly gaining traction worldwide. There are now programs in Singapore and Brazil.

“So, our vision is to help sow the seeds for those programs,” said Sandoval.

Next week is the grand opening for the shower bus and there are more in the works.

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