Learn more about Lava Mae’s VOLUNTEER PROGRAM and all the ways you can help out by making a direct impact in the life of someone experiencing homelessness

Join us for a day of high-touch hospitality on our mobile shower service and SIGN UP to volunteer here:

san franciscolos angeles

Questions? Have any special services or skills you’d like to offer?

Contact volunteer@lavamae.org in San Francisco and volunteerla@lavamae.org in Los Angeles

Power our Pop-Up Care Villages

Join us as a partner, sponsor, or volunteer at a Pop-Up Care Village – our one-stop shops that mobilizes private, nonprofit and public sector partners to bring critical services to the street, where our guests need them most.

sign up here

replicate our service

In response to thousands of requests from around the world for our showers on wheels, we will soon launch our new buildIt toolkit to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to create a mobile hygiene service in their own community.

If you’d like to be notified about our toolkit launch, please complete this brief survey.  

In the meantime, here are some initial steps to help you get started.

First Steps to Mobile Hygiene

  • Step 1: What’s the need?

    Research homelessness in your community. How many? Who are the homeless, what are their demographics? Where are some of the most prominent shelters and service providers? What are the options for someone who wants to take a shower? This will help you understand the landscape, inform the specifics of your plan, and may even make connections that will help you build a collaborative body.

  • Step 2: Just say hello!

    Get your toes wet, and start meeting some of the homeless members of your community, human to human. Understand your own perceptions of homelessness, and challenge them. The best way to understand the experience of not being able to shower and lacking access to hygiene and sanitation is to ask those with first hand experience.

  • Step 3: Build partnerships

    Leaders in the nonprofit world and local government can offer their advice, and also help back this project. Research organizations doing related work, and seek out champions in local government working with homelessness – they could become powerful allies in hosting or supporting the project.There are also many churches and faith-based groups doing charitable work for the homeless that might have the resources and desire to help bring this to fruition. For example, Lava Mae is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, but we started out as a fiscally sponsored project of The Tides Center.  Fiscal sponsorship is a great way to incubate an early-stage project.

  • Step 4: How will you fund this project?

    Start thinking about your funding sources. Donations from friends, family, and the community is a great starting point. However, in order to really get your business off the ground, you will need to focus on: crowdsourcing, grants, local/federal funds, corporate sponsorships, and fiscal sponsorships. Getting the right media coverage is critical to getting funding, it helps spread the word about your organization and makes you more attractive to potential funders.

  • Step 5: Assemble the team

    You can try to do this on your own but be prepared for it to be all-consuming. The best way to really get your project off the ground would be to find like-minded people (independent individuals or people who are part of an existing organization you could partner with) who can bring the following areas of expertise to the table: marketing/PR, project management, design/build, fundraising, impact measurement, social media. Volunteers are a great resource when you are starting off, they can provide support with research or go out and help build community partnerships.

  • Step 6: What are you driving?

    Think about what your mobile vehicle looks like, get creative! We used a decommissioned municipal public transportation bus, which was donated through connections we made in local government. However, you can also use a school bus, RV, or just buy a commercial shower trailer. Repurposing an existing resource, one that is iconic and familiar in San Francisco, and turning it into a vehicle for good in the community, helped create a story that has generated a lot of publicity, attention, and funds.

  • Step 7: Our resources

    Our forthcoming buildIt toolkit will walk you through the steps to creating a mobile hygiene service in your community and help you identify the resources and partners you’ll need to make it happen. Sign up for your toolkit by completing our short replication survey.

  • Step 8: What's next?

    Ready to learn more?  Want to become an affiliate of Lava Mae?  Contact Leah at leah@lavamae.org with any questions, while we are working on an online, information-sharing platform. We believe in collaboration and are open to working with everyone. We’re also happy to extend the halo effect of the publicity we’ve been receiving, as advisors and supporters of your project.