(TMU) – As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States, skyrocketing unemployment has threatened millions of Americans while food banks and other social service providers struggle to contend with growing poverty.
And while the idea of sheltering at home seems simple enough, the heartbreaking fact is that millions across the country don’t have the luxury of enjoying a roof over their head during this crisis – let alone clean running water.
However, a Georgia-based nonprofit has been quietly installing portable sinks in city streets across the country in hopes that homeless people will be able to wash their hands – a simple yet important task that most of us take for granted.
Over the course of the last two months, Love Beyond Walls has been setting up hand-washing stations in areas where unhoused populations congregate and pass through.
It’s great partnering with Redeemer Lutheran in Midtown ATL to ensure sanitation is present as they walk with people experiencing homelessness..#lovebeyondwalls #LoveSinksIn
Posted by Love Beyond Walls on Monday, May 18, 2020
It’s important work, especially with a pandemic currently raging and health authorities urging Americans to comprehensively wash their hands with soap and water to prevent the virus from spreading.
On the Love Beyond Walls website, the group describes its vision as bringing “dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency.”
The group’s founder, Terence Lester, was himself homeless as a teen. In an appearance on Katie Couric’s new YouTube series, The Bright Side, Lester explained that his “Love Sinks In” campaign was begun in hopes to support a commonly neglected population during the pandemic, which could be their most dire time of need.
In recent years, the United States has experienced the startling return of viruses once believed to be under control. However, rising poverty levels and a growth in mass homelessness have ensured the spread of diseases commonly believed to belong to the last century, or much less developed countries in the global South.
Several outbreaks of Hepatitis A, a vaccine-preventable illness, have occurred in states like California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah, and other states.
Public health officials say that the virus spread due to a huge increase in homelessness and an accompanying failure by local governments to provide them with basic amenities and hygiene tools like clean water or public bathrooms.
“People would say things like ‘I’m fearing I’ll contract the coronavirus because I have nowhere to wash my hands.’”
And with the help of allies like hip hop artist Lecrae, a friend of Lester’s, the group has been able to expand their operations. Ever since the Grammy award-winning musician began supporting the group’s efforts in March, several dozen sinks have been installed across the Atlanta, Georgia.
The sinks are also sanitized at least three times daily.
Love Beyond Walls is also teaming up with homeless charities in poverty hot-spots across the U.S. Cities like Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Columbus, New Orleans, New York City, and San Bernardino could soon see sinks dotting their streets thanks to Love Beyond Walls.
During her interview with Lester, Katie Couric surprised the nonprofit leader by making a $10,000 donation to the cause, ensuring that 50 more portable sinks would be built – ensuring that in addition to receiving a bit of dignity, unhoused people could also have the basic hygiene needed to weather the storm of COVID-19’s spread.