Lava Mae & Radical Hospitality for Homelessness

LavaMaeI recently visited a Lava Mae “Pop-Up Care Village” in front of San Francisco’s Main Library. It was simply incredible to see the deep respect the non-profit pays to individuals experiencing homelessness. Lava Mae takes their services to the people, or “guests” (as they are called), demonstrating radical hospitality right on the street.

On the day I went, they provided:

Library Services, Acupuncture, Food, Coffee, Art Stations, Haircuts, Showers, Clothing, Hygiene Kits, Employment Information, Veteran Affairs Information, Voter Registration, and opportunities to visit with people from the non-profit, Project Homeless Connect.

What probably struck me the most was a plain sign entitled “Listening.” A therapist was there to meet with people, but to me the sign meant much more. The 50 volunteers helping out were present, not perfunctory, engaging, not turning away from those with matted hair, gaunt faces and missing teeth.

I met a man who was eating a bagel waiting for a haircut. He had a college degree and told me about growing up in Puerto Rico with a father who was an alcoholic. He wasn’t officially homeless, he has couch space in an apartment in the Richmond district. I saw children, and was told that young families are the fastest growing population of homeless people in the United States.

I spoke with Leah Filler, (Lava Mae’s Director of Impact and New Programs) an altruistic and intuitive woman. I asked about her motivation to serve these guests. She told me, “there is an old Buddhist saying, ‘to give is to receive a gift for yourself,’ this work is about giving to the most neglected, overlooked, and invisible people.”

If you are seeking an opportunity to donate your time or money, look no further than this dynamic and deeply caring organization. In the coming days they will be bringing their inspiring work to San Jose and Los Angeles.

Special thanks to Deborah Schneider for connecting me to this very meaningful work.

To learn more about Lava Mae, please visit:

To watch a 17-second video of what I saw, please visit:

The Untapped Power of Your Pocket Change

CoinPhoto“By one estimate $10.5 billion sits in people’s homes gathering dust” (Burdick, Discover Magazine).

How much money do you have laying around your abode? Do you have coins resting in ceramic cups? Pennies glistening in a jar over the kitchen sink? Spare change covers the odd corners of our homes like valuable metallic dust. We recycle bottles, why not put old dimes to use?

A few years ago I started making a point of giving my house change to homeless people in San Francisco. I would put coins in ziplock bags and hand them to individuals I regularly saw on various street corners. I understand that giving money to homeless people on the street might not be your thing, but what about supporting the SPCA or Habitat for Humanity?

Some of you might believe that your spare coins can’t make a difference, consider this:

-80% of adults say they save loose change rather than spend it (website, Americans for Common Cents)

-$1 million of the approximately $3 million raised annually from national 7-Eleven stores for charities are pennies (website, Americans for Common Cents)

-The website The Straight Dope asked the question, “How much change do you have lying around your house?” The average amount was $195, with $50 being the most common number mentioned.

In her fascinating book, Give a Little, Wendy Smith’s research demonstrates that small donations make a difference globally and at home, while also proving psychologically beneficial to the donors.

How often are you asked to donate to a cause on Facebook? For me it is weekly. Many people don’t donate because they can’t give $50 or $100. What if all of those thousands of non-donors just gave $2? How much money would be raised? How could the world be steadily improved?

This blog asks you to embrace the $4 donation and get rid of your idle coins.

Here is a “how to” example:

-Find three jars (or more)

-Label Jar #1 Dana Farber Cancer Institute

-Label Jar #2 Doctors Without Borders

-Label Jar #3 Miscellaneous or Local Causes etc. (this is for all of the various fundraisers led by friends and family)

-Pick a day to cash in the coins with your bank, then donate the amount to each cause. If you are a parent, get your kids involved!

Anyone has the power to be a philanthropist and make the world a better place. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!