LavaLove, Seeking to Restore Dignity in Those That are Overlooked

September 2021

LavaLove, a mobile trailer providing showers and personal hygiene services to the underserved community, is scheduled to be completed and begin operating in Morristown, New Jersey by December 2021. Started by POWER Changes Lives Inc. (People Organized Working Evolving Reaching), LavaLove is a project born from the recognized need for a space providing private and regular bathing and hygiene for the unsheltered and sheltered homeless communities. As explained on their website, “LavaLove®, a 29’ customized all-weather, 3-unit shower-toilet mobile hygiene trailer providing full services to sheltered and unsheltered homeless guests restoring dignity in those overlooked solely based on their current housing status, bringing visibility to those “invisible” within the community is coming to Morris County, NJ in December 2021.”

LavaLove was modeled after the successful LavaMae, a fleet of mobile hygiene trailers operating throughout California since 2013, when the first trailer was created out of a retired city bus. The LavaLove team has trained with them and received over a year of mentorship before designing their own program and planned deployment in the New Jersey and New York metro areas. “LavaLove seeks to restore dignity in those who are overlooked and “invisible” based on their housing status,” as stated in their operational plan. Both LavaMae and LavaLove employ a “Radical Hospitality” approach to providing services to those who are water insecure, which can be described as “a practice of putting extraordinary effort and emphasis on making people feel welcome.” Or as LavaMae explains it, “Mobile hygiene is effective because guests are treated with care, respect, and dignity that leads to unlikely friendships and a strong community. This principle is called Radical Hospitality. The majority of guests are regulars–they return each week not only to shower, but also to spend their day in a safe, welcoming space.”

As designed, the Morris County LavaLove® will operate three (3) days per week, in 6-hour shifts, providing an estimated 36 daily showers and 5,604 showers per year with one mobile unit. In addition to showers, grooming and social services, guests will be fed paper bag lunches through POWER’s Project F.E.E.D.® (Friends Ensuring Every Dinner) whose mission is to address food-insecurity. By the end of 2022, LavaLove is hoping to have completed their expansion plan to include six additional trailers operating throughout New Jersey, with one in New York City.

Penelope Lopez, Founder and CEO of POWER changes lives shares the mission of LavaLove and the benefits it will provide to the community.

Ask yourself, when you see a homeless person, do you stop and ask if they need any help? Or do you add some extra steps in your pace to get away from them? These are only a few of the faces you see that are water insecure. In New Jersey alone, there are hundreds if not thousands more, who lack consistent, daily access to water and hygiene services, which includes the sheltered and unsheltered homeless. Churches and shelters are doing their very best, but many can only provide limited overnight accommodations, but do not have the resources or capacity to provide showers – they need help; they need YOU, they need ME – they need LavaLove®. This is especially difficult and dangerous for those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes where footcare including access to clean, dry socks can prevent deadly foot infections, or those with mental illness, or women who have privacy and special hygiene needs, and the LGBTQIA+ community where safety is a huge concern. You are our guest with LavaLove® – welcome home.

Along with LavaLove, POWER also runs a myriad of community programs which provide resources, assistance and education to the underserved population. As stated on their site:

“POWER was created in 2010 to directly address the needs of the community, deploying initiatives such as Project F.E.E.D.® (Friends Ensuring Every Dinner), Project Warmth®, and iLearn® under a 501(c)(3) sponsorship. On September 10, 2018, POWER obtained its 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service. Thereafter POWER expanded their scope of services to include a specific focus on aging, education, finance, food insecurity, health, housing wellness, and social justice and reform in low-income, minority and underserved communities (LIMUs) adding programs The Justice League®, Senior Connect®, iAmArt®, iPlay® and LavaLove®”

To learn more about LavaLove, POWER and their mission, or to get involved with any of their programs, please visit their website their Facebook page, POWER People Organized Working Evolving Reaching.