Not being able to keep clean is an often overlooked repercussion of being unhoused, one that robs people of their dignity and exacerbates their isolation. Founded in 2013, LavaMaex is changing the way the world sees and serves our unhoused neighbors, by teaching others how to bring mobile showers and other essential care services to the street.
LavaMaex believes that opportunity unfolds when people are treated with dignity, and that everyone rises to the level of care they’re provided. Their Do-It-Yourself toolkits, in-depth training, and strategic partnerships empower people worldwide to deliver mobile showers and other care services to their unhoused neighbors using LavaMaex’s diginity-restoring Radical Hospitality® approach.
LavaMaex launched their first shower service in San Francisco in 2014 using a retrofitted bus. After attracting strong interest from countless potential partners, in 2016 the LavaMaex team was eager to explore the possibilities of systematically scaling their impact to other areas in California and beyond.
Knowing they had to respond to the growing demand for their services in a thoughtful and impactful way, LavaMaex sought support from Spring Impact to explore how best to filter and prioritize inbound opportunities given limited resources, sustainably scale their impact beyond their original footprint in San Francisco, and empower others to deliver the same services to a high standard.
Spring Impact facilitated a structured process with the LavaMaex team to review the organization’s current operations and strategy, clarify their scale ambitions, and explore the best-fit operational and financial model that would give them confidence in their path to scale. With so much potential and interest in the Radical Hospitality approach, it was important to take stock of the impact LavaMaex wanted to have in the wider context. In the short term we recommended LavaMaex bring their model to a new city to learn about the best ways to implement their services in another location, with the long term goal of finding a way to share their methods more widely for others.
In our work together, we learned that LavaMaex was concerned that without clear procedures and instructions, others might struggle to deliver the quality of service and care that Radical Hospitality requires. We helped them to determine what about their approach was driving social impact, and document processes so others could deliver to clear expectations and achieve the same impact.
LavaMaex started directly delivering their services in Los Angeles and found that demand for their mobile hygiene services was increasing at a rapid pace both in the US and globally. They would have to move quickly to meet this demand, which meant another change of strategy. LavaMaex decided to adopt an open-sourced approach, releasing their first DIY Mobile Hygiene toolkit in 2017 and leveraging the systemized materials and learnings from the move to LA. By disseminating their approach widely, LavaMaex is able to share specialized knowledge with people across the world, inspiring over 250 programs in over 12 countries to-date.
Kris Kepler, LavaMaex’s CEO, explained:
“The nature of LavaMaex is we’ve always been fluid, we pivot constantly. The demand from people who wanted this service or to start their own was overwhelming.”
LavaMaex continues to pivot, with a clear focus on empowering entrepreneurs and community organizations with local knowledge who have the passion and drive to challenge the perception of houselessness in their own communities. We re-engaged with LavaMaex in 2018 to support their plans to establish a consulting program to guide others who want to start mobile hygiene services in their communities.
LavaMaex is now building a worldwide support network and movement of mobile hygiene providers–– their current ambition is to build a global network of LavaMaex-inspired providers that serve 100,000 people by 2024, and they’re well on their way. LavaMaex currently works with 70 social entrepreneurs and community organizations bringing mobile showers and other essential care services to the streets of their communities.
Photo: LavaMaex training The Power of a Shower before launching their own service at Venice Beach, CA