Pay It Forward: Woman Converts Bus To Bathroom For The Homeless

“Pay It Forward” initiatives are popular around the holidays. The idea that you can do something nice for someone with the only “string attached” being that they, in turn, do something nice for someone else, has been around for several years now and even inspired a popular book and film of the same name.

Now 52-year-old Doniece Sandoval, a former marketing executive, is taking her crack at it by converting a bus into a bathroom that can then be used by the homeless.

The Daily Mail reports that Sandoval has had two full bathrooms installed into the bus, and that homeless people can go there for a little dignity when it comes to their hygiene and bodily functions.

The bus services San Francisco’s homeless community, which statistics show is 3,500-strong with only eight public bathrooms to accommodate them.

Sandoval was motivated to pay it forward when she witnessed a young woman crying on the street about how “she would never be clean.” It was a moving image for the head of non-profit Lava Mae.

Deciding to take action, she enlisted the help of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which donated one bus for the cause “and is willing to provide three more if the Lava Mae project succeeds,” the Mail reports.

The bathroom bus has been in operation since the summer.

The Lava Mae founder notes that it isn’t her goal to end homelessness, not that she wants homelessness to exist, but that doing so is just a bit too farfetched. Rather her goals are more practical.

“What we are about is providing hygiene, because we believe hygiene brings dignity and dignity opens up opportunity,” Sandoval said, adding that the bus “visits the worst affected areas including Mission district as well as the downtown ‘Tenderloin’ area.”

San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission has also decided to allow Lava Mae’s buses to plug in to fire hydrants provided that the water is compensated.

It costs around $75,000 to refit the bus so that it includes everything one will find aboard Lava Mae’s creations. That includes showers, sinks, toilets, and changing rooms.

Each homeless person, who checks in to a Lava Mae bathroom bus gets to use it for 20 minutes uninterrupted.

What do you think about the pay it forward work that this non-profit is doing? Do you agree with Sandoval that “hygiene brings dignity and dignity brings opportunity”? Share your thoughts in our comments section.