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:

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