The nonprofit organization, LavaMaeˣ, brings showers, toilets, and other health services to people experiencing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
The organization functions through the approach of radical hospitality.
“Radical Hospitality is about delivering extraordinary care to our unhoused neighbors, who are often treated like they are not a human being,” Colton Coty, Director of Marketing & Communications for LavaMaeˣ, said. “We should not have to pick and choose who deserves to be treated with dignity based upon their housing status, but unfortunately this is not the world we live in.”
When the organization began in 2014, they provided mobile hygiene services through showers and toilets made inside refurbished public transportation buses. Now, they bring care services to San Francisco via Pop-Up Care Villages that provide basic hygiene resources, healthcare, and clothing to communities in need.
“I had taken for granted how fortunate I am to have access to a shower wherever I want,” senior Olivia Williams said. “Volunteering made me realize the importance of hygiene services.”
LavaMaeˣ not only emphasizes the importance of access to hygiene, but advocates for its standing as a basic human right.
“Hygiene is a human right because it not only keeps us connected to our dignity, but poor hygiene is a grave public health issue,” Coty said. “If people cannot wash their hands, clean their nails, or their feet and body, they become more susceptible to disease and spreading them.”
Unsafe sanitation is responsible for 775,000 deaths each year, according to Our World in Data, highlighting its threat to the physical and emotional well being of communities.
“With the goal of radical hospitality, LavaMaeˣ upholds the bar of how much we should care for others,” senior Lily Peta said. “It inspires me to do the maximum in order to help those around me.”
The organization prompts individuals to reflect on the norm of how much we do for others in society, according to Williams.
The organization provides training for individuals seeking to bring LavaMaeˣ programs to their communities.
“We aim to make this [radical hospitality] more of a norm by training others worldwide on how to deliver Radical Hospitality, because how you serve people is just as important as the service itself,” Coty said. “This will create a ripple effect that we aim to reach on a global scale.”