Lava Mae relaunches as Lava Maex

Lava Mae relaunches as Lava Maex, a nonprofit accelerator for communities responding to the homelessness crisis

The inventor of mobile showers and care for unhoused people restructures to spread its Radical Hospitality® philosophy around the world!

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 12, 2019—Lava Mae kicked off a mobile shower revolution in 2014; now it’s aiming to spur worldwide adoption of its Radical Hospitality® approach to serving unhoused people. To do that, the organization is turning itself into a nonprofit accelerator called Lava Maex.

Lava Maex will focus on training, service innovation and network building. Over the next five years, its goal is to fully train 75 communities around the globe to collectively serve 100,000 individual guests with programs rooted in Radical Hospitality—a philosophy of meeting people wherever they are with extraordinary care.

“I’ve come to believe that Radical Hospitality is our greatest innovation,” said Doniece Sandoval, founder and CEO of Lava Mae. “To treat people who have nothing and are grappling with their sense of self-worth—people whom most of the world shuns—with extraordinary care, and to welcome them as neighbors and fellow human beings is where the magic lies.”

Lava Maex will keep a finger on the pulse of the street by providing weekly shower service in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles so that it can give replicators real-world training. The accelerator will also continue to host Pop-Up Care Villages, where guests can get haircuts, medical care, legal advice, employment assistance and other free services, to model collaborative, multi-provider service delivery.

Bay Area, Los Angeles services to continue with Project WeHOPE’s Dignity on Wheels

Dignity on Wheels, a program of Project WeHOPE that already provides shower service at 25 sites in 14 Bay Area cities across 4 counties, will take over 13 of Lava Mae’s service sites, including Los Angeles, in January. As of Oct. 31, Dignity on Wheels had provided over 30,000 showers, 12,000 loads of laundry and comprehensive case management services to help guests become healthy, employed and housed. Many members of Lava Mae’s team are moving to Dignity on Wheels and will continue to provide mobile hygiene services.

“Dignity on Wheels shares Lava Mae’s mission of transforming the way communities see and serve people experiencing homelessness,” said Pastor Paul Bains, co-founder of Project WeHOPE, which has served the homeless for 20 years. “And Radical Hospitality is a natural fit for us, since we always strive to bring dignity and opportunity into the lives of the people we serve. We are looking forward to serving Lava Mae’s existing guests, and will continue to expand mobile hygiene services to unhoused people throughout California.”

Spreading the ethos of extraordinary care

The impetus for restructuring Lava Mae as Lava Maex came from the rising interest in replicating Lava Mae’s services. Since its launch, Lava Mae has fielded more than 4,250 inquiries from city agencies, nonprofits, governments, refugee aid organizations and individuals in the U.S. and 39 other countries seeking to provide similar services. To meet that demand, in 2017 Lava Mae created the buildIt online platform, a free DIY toolkit and forum that helps anyone, anywhere launch a mobile hygiene program. To date, the toolkit has been downloaded over 2,700 times and Lava Mae has inspired, advised or trained 157 organizations worldwide to create mobile hygiene services. This response opened Lava Mae’s eyes to the massive need for street-based services, and the organization concluded that the best way to meet that need was to teaching others to deliver Radical Hospitality.

Recognizing that the most sustainable solutions come from the communities where the challenges exist, Lava Maex will work to accelerate local responses to homelessness with open source toolkits, in-depth training and strategic partnerships. A new toolkit for Pop-Up Care Villages is already in the works.

“Lava Maex has been instrumental in launching our service,” said Lena Miller, CEO and founder of Urban Alchemy, which is bringing mobile showers to underserved parts of Los Angeles. “They trained us, advised us on strategy and provided onsite support. Without them, our rollout of 17 trailers would not be possible.”

Seizing the opportunity to create a new service ethic

A partnership with the new Unilever brand, The Right to Shower, is providing core support for Lava Maex. Built as a social enterprise, The Right to Shower donates profits to Lava Maex and other shower initiatives that help people who are moving through homelessness. In turn, Lava Maex draws on its expertise to advise the brand, identifying, vetting and recommending initiatives for The Right to Shower to fund.

“We have the opportunity to teach the world by bringing Lava Maex–designed solutions to more communities seeking to follow our model,” said Sandoval. “And perhaps more importantly, we can influence, maybe even permanently change, the way organizations and communities see and serve their unhoused neighbors. That would mean we’d fulfill our mission fully and deeply.”

About Lava Maex

Lava Maex is a nonprofit accelerator that transforms the way communities around the world see and serve their unhoused neighbors. Through its open source toolkit, in-depth training and strategic partnerships, Lava Maex is building a worldwide network of providers who take critical services for the unhoused to the street. Everything Lava Maex does is rooted in its philosophy of Radical Hospitality®—meeting people wherever they are with extraordinary care. As of October 2019, Lava Maex–designed programs have resulted in 157 programs restoring dignity, rekindling optimism and fueling a sense of opportunity in 144 communities in 6 countries.

Media contact

Anya Khalamayzer

Thinkshift Communications

732.614.2318 |

Photo Credits

Photo Credits, Left to Right, Top to Bottom: PRO, Brian Craig Photography, Lava Mae, The Bay Church, Lava Mae