Lava Mae Founder Doniece Sandoval Visits Hamlin

Doniece2“What if you couldn’t shower when you wanted to? How would your classmates treat you?” These were Doniece Sandoval’s first questions for our Hamlin students when she visited last Friday. Ms. Sandoval is the founder of Lava Mae, a nonprofit organization that converts old buses into mobile showers for homeless individuals.

“Lava Mae started with one woman, homeless in San Francisco, crying that she would never be clean. Doniece Sandoval heard her cries. Those words, a desire to help those experiencing homelessness, and a crazy obsession with the mobile food truck movement set in motion what eventually became Lava Mae. Started by private citizens who believe that access to showers and toilets shouldn’t be a luxury, Lava Mae seeks to serve those who lack access to what should be basic human rights – showers and sanitation” (Lave Mae website).

Ms. Sandoval explained that San Francisco has only 16 shower stalls for 7,500 homeless people. The inability to get clean, “destroys your sense of self-worth and dignity, you can’t get a job, or apply for housing.” Lava Mae makes a point of welcoming each homeless “guest” with what they call “radical hospitality.” This means that each homeless person is treated with respect, dignity, and human-focused care.

To date, Lava Mae has provided 14,000 showers to 2,300 people and will soon be expanding to San Jose and Los Angeles. Ms. Sandoval stated, “we are seeing people all over the world wanting to duplicate our efforts.”

I asked Ms. Sandoval what she was excited about for Lava Mae’s future. Watch her response here:

Special thanks to Deborah Schneider and Priyam Joshi for helping to make this visit possible.

For more information about Lava Mae, please visit:


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