Mobile showers for the homeless: Google’s lesson in Crapulent Social Responsibility


Last week, as Yasha Levine’s article on Google’s fights with the LA homeless community was making the rounds, I found myself in the Tenderloin at 9am, standing in front of a former MUNI bus converted into showers and bathrooms for the homeless. The bus was painted blue and with eyelashes over its headlights and it was parked in its regular Wednesday and Friday location in front of GLIDE Church. There was a long list of names on the sign up sheet and about a dozen people waiting to clean up.

“When I found out there were only 16 showers available for the 3,500 homeless people in an affluent city like San Francisco, I found that to be a criminal lack of basic water and sanitation access, a human right. When I had the idea, I was obsessed with mobile food and I thought, ‘why not a bathroom?’”

So said Doniece Sandoval, the founder of Lava Mae. Sandoval was speaking to me as she went about the tasks associated with moving 42 people a day through two showers fed by a fire hydrant and parked at the curb, providing each person a spacious, hand-cleaned-and-sanitized bathroom and a safe, comfortable and dignified service.  

Lava Mae is the San Francisco non-profit which not only outfitted and operates the shower bus, but also navigated the partnership and permit process which knits them into the fabric of local homeless services and allows them to park their bus on a public road, washing the public with  public water (and donated Dr. Bronner’s soap) running off sudsy into public sewers.

Lava Mae’s advisory committee includes the director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE), Bevan Dufty, and Kara Zordel, the Executive Director of the City’ Project Homeless Connect, along with the directors of a handful of partner non-profits. These relationships are core to what Lava Mae does and what it could do.

Three more buses are scheduled to come on line this year, with a tweaked layout for an improved user experience. Lava Mae has expanded rapaciously in recent months, from three to six employees. Sandoval said she is working on a revenue model that involves digital advertising on light-weight Indian smartglass.

All of this happened in large part thanks to a $ 100,000 grant from Google’s charitable arm, a grant which arose from the Google Impact Challenge and has just reached the end of its cycle…

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Copy and Paste, Faster Showers, and Firefox’s Navigation Bar


Readers offer their best tips for copying and pasting with your mouse, getting a head start on your shower while it warms up, and keeping Firefox’s URL bar clean.

Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they’re a bit too niche, maybe we couldn’t find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn’t fit it in—the tip didn’t make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favorites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments, email it to tips at, or share it over at our user-run blog, Hackerspace.

Use Back and Forward Mouse Buttons for Copy and Paste

Copy and Paste, Faster Showers, and Firefox's Navigation Bar

Phillip Baxter fights RSI with mouse shortcuts:

I don’t know why I didn’t do this ages ago. I’m a programmer, and I sometimes start to get RSI issues when I have to do a lot of copy-pasting. Something about that Left Ctrl key!

Anyway, it just occurred to me that I rarely use the “Forward” and “Back” buttons on my Logitech mouse, so I installed the driver for the mouse, brought up the configuration software, selected the buttons and hit “Edit”. Under the “Command Editor,” I selected “Keystroke” and set the Forward button to be Ctrl+C and the Back button to be Ctrl+V. Much easier on the wrist!

Photo by William Hook.

Hurry Through Your Shower with a Shampoo Head Start

Copy and Paste, Faster Showers, and Firefox's Navigation Bar

Huh989 doesn’t waste any time in the morning:

If you’re like me, you often stay in bed until you really need to get up and going which cuts down on prep-time. When you’re late, it seems like the water takes forever to warm up. While you could use the time to brush your teeth, rinse with some mouthwash, or any number of other things, here’s a tip to help move along your morning routine and cut down wasted time if all you want is a seriously fast shower.

While the water is still cold, just wet your head down and hold it over the shower (assuming you have a tub type shower). Your head generally can take the icy cold, death water when it would not be comfortable hopping in completely. With your head wet, you can now carefully apply shampoo and by the time you’re ready to rinse your head, you can climb in the tub and get clean.

Keep Firefox’s Navigation Bar Blank when No URL Is Typed

Copy and Paste, Faster Showers, and Firefox's Navigation Bar

Moon finds a handy little about:config tweak:

We know what the URL bar is for. If you want to get rid of that “go to a web page” or “search or enter address” or whatever’s in the URL bar by default, set this to False in about:config:


It just looks cleaner when that text is not there.

Clean Dusty Lampshades with a Lint Roller

Copy and Paste, Faster Showers, and Firefox's Navigation Bar

Gregory Kanaan keeps his living room clean:

If your lampshades are covered in dust like mine were after my wife and I moved, you can clean them off with a standard cheap lint roller. Because they’re round, they don’t damage the shade and the dust comes right off. Your lampshades will look like new AND they’ll shine brighter.

I can see this being useful for fabric-based lampshades on which dusters don’t work as easily. Photo by Nadiona.