Many cities and towns are currently debating the best ways to tackle the growing problem of homelessness nationwide.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than 6,000 people live on the streets in San Francisco, while nationwide the figures reached 610,042 last year.
Lava Mae, or “wash me” in Spanish, is a non-profit organization in San Francisco that is converting old city buses into showers for the homeless to use. They are hoping their initiative can help those most in need.
“I've always cared about homelessness, but not really known how to help beyond volunteering and donating money -- that didn't feel like enough,” Doniece Sandoval, its founder and executive director, told Foxnews.com.
Sandoval says she was inspired to start the program after seeing many people “move from their homes to their cars to the streets and felt really powerless to help.”
Her idea for the mobile showers came after seeing the success of food trucks. “If you could put gourmet food on wheels and take it anywhere, why not showers and toilets.”
Currently there is a lack of a significant number of showers for the homeless. “There are only seven drop-in centers each with two or three shower stalls, so we are looking at 16 to 20 shower stalls for nearly 3,500 people,” said Sandoval.
Safety and security were top issues the organization took into account when designing the buses.
“There is really almost no place a homeless person can go to have a sense of their own space,” said Sandoval. “We want to address those concerns with our bus.”
The bus has two separate areas equipped with a shower stall, changing area, sink and toilet. The showers are powered by hooking up to fire hydrants. Each person is given about 20 minutes to use the facilities.
Sandoval says the organization is already setting its sights beyond the Bay Area. “We are already working with a bunch of different communities across the country from Honolulu to Miami.”
They are hoping to develop their program as “Lava Mae in a box,” where communities can replicate the showers and put their own imprint on the idea.
Watch the full interview with Doniece Sandoval above.
Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox.