Dignity on Wheels

Posted November 16, 2016 by The Argonaut in News

A mobile shower trailer for the homeless debuts in Venice on Nov. 25

By Gary Walker

onin and Sandoval declare Lava Mae’s mobile shower trailer ready for service Photo by Maria Martin

onin and Sandoval declare Lava Mae’s mobile shower trailer ready for service
Photo by Maria Martin

After working in refugee camps all over the world, Jasmin Kozowy knows how important water and sanitation are to displaced and forgotten people.

Those experiences led her to contact Lava Mae, a nonprofit mobile shower service based in San Francisco, in an effort to provide those basic necessities to another displaced population: the homeless in Los Angeles.

Beginning next Friday, a retrofitted trailer operated by Lava Mae will provide free showers for homeless people in Venice on Third Street and Rose Avenue, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kozowy and support from elected officials.

Kozowy discovered Lava Mae on social media and reached out last year to ask them to come to Los Angeles.

“They told me that they had been in discussions with Councilman Mike Bonin and state Sen. Holly Mitchell, and I guess I just joined the gap in putting a little more force to them coming here,” said Kozowy, 28, a Canadian citizen who has been in Los Angeles for six years.

Lava Mae named Kozowy its Los Angeles branch director in August.

The group’s blue-and-white Venice trailer is retrofitted with three bathing compartments, each with a shower, sink and toilet. The trailer will get its water from a fire hydrant on Third Street and operate from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Friday.

Lava Mae will provide its homeless clients with hygiene kits that include soap and other toiletries, and the nonprofit Project Narnia will provide free clothing.

Bonin, who represents L.A. Westside neighborhoods on the council, said he found out about Lava Mae two years ago after a group of constituents asked him to explore the idea of bringing the mobile shower service to Venice.

“We thought about trying to create something from scratch here, and we also contacted Lava Mae. I’m delighted that they decided to come because they know how to do this,” Bonin said. “Hygiene is a human right, and it gives people dignity and gives people a much better opportunity to look for a job or an apartment when they’re clean and presentable.”

Kozowy said she sees similarities between the refugee camps she visited in the Middle East and American neighborhoods with large homeless populations.

“I’ve worked in refugee camps for a large part of my life. You go to a refugee camp in Afghanistan or to an encampment on Skid Row or in Venice, and there are the same needs — and in some cases some of the same conditions,” she said.

Kozowy recalled a 20-year-old woman on Skid Row who hadn’t showered for more than a month until she learned that Lava Mae offered free showers.

“I was able to coax her into the shower and give her that space to feel comfortable and safe with me. Now she comes to see us every week,” she said.

People congregating along Third Street during a Tuesday morning press preview of Lava Mae’s new Venice trailer seemed to welcome the addition of the mobile showers to their neighborhood.

Joshua Dementer is familiar with Lava Mae. Now a resident of Venice Beach, he lived for a time in San Francisco and noted how spacious and clean the Lava Mae showers were in comparison to others that serve the homeless population.

“Even though there are drop-in centers and places that do provide showers, if you actually go to them they’re really kind of dilapidated and have a lot of mold infestation,” he said. “And there are people who are hindered from going to those places, but this brings the showers to them.”

Bonin and Kozowy hope to expand the program to other Westside neighborhoods next year.

“This is about more than just showers,” she said. “It’s about restoring a person’s dignity, and with dignity comes opportunity.”



    Jed Pauker

    Thanks to the Argonaut for reporting this, which shows that restoring dignity and self-worth is a process, requiring training and, most importantly, patience.

    Our CM Bonin also deserves a shout out for his wisdom and persistence in helping to lead Venice into the light of practical and effective solutions.

    Peter Hunter

    Jasmin, you are wonderful and the words in the story are so true. Having a shower and being clean is a human right and you serve these homeless people well. Love and hugs. Peter xx

    Maureen Cotter

    A wonderful idea. Business’s in the community should chip in and sponsor a trailer for each day of the week, not just Sunday. Hats off to this idea. I know what my shower means to me each day.


    I promise I’m not trying to be flippant but…

    These folks reside at the *beach*

    If I had limited resources, I might use them differently

    Sunny Bak

    I think some dignity in keeping clean would help people a lot towards getting on their feet again and getting more help to get off the streets.

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