Some of Atlanta’s homeless residents have one less thing to stress about amid the coronavirus outbreak, thanks to a local man’s innovative idea bringing freshwater resources to those in need.
Terence Lester, executive director and founder of homelessness awareness group Love Beyond Walls, is bringing portable handwashing stations to the city. The organization’s mission is to “raise awareness to society’s needs through technology and storytelling, and mobilize people to take part in it.”
Lester says he’s working to do just that. He said he came up with the idea for the portable sinks as public health officials released more information about the coronavirus and how to slow its spread.
“As the rest of the world was talking about sanitizing and washing their hands … there’s an entire community of homeless people who cannot do any of those things,” Lester said in a statement to Atlanta Black Star. “My life’s work and my past as a homeless person wouldn’t allow me to let the homeless population be an afterthought during this time of crisis.”
In a video clip posted online, he detailed how the stations work. The sinks feature a foot pump that allows the user to pump the water up through the tubes and out of the faucet. There’s also a built in soap dispenser, and the graywater drains out of the back.
Thanks to donations from local manufacturers, Love Beyond Walls has received about 15 of the portable machines so far, each holding up to 10 gallons of water, local station 11 Alive reported. Lester, with the help of internal volunteers, has spent the past week installing them around the community.
Grammy-winning gospel artist Lecrae was among those who pitched in to help.
“We spent a good amount of time putting them around Hurt Park [in the city’s downtown],” Lecrae told WSB-TV, adding that the group, which also operates a local food pantry, took food to the popular gathering spot for the city’s homeless as well, including sandwiches, drinks and cheeseburgers.
Together, they were able to install 10 handwashing stations around the city last Thursday. Through its aptly titled “Love Sinks In” initiative, the group said it hopes to install at least 100 of the stations across Atlanta.
“How could I not get involved?” Lecrae said when asked why he decided to partner with Lester and Love Beyond Walls. “Working with Terrence was a no-brainer. He is someone who works every single day on restoring the community and affirming the dignity of those who are unseen.”
“Together, we want to show other cities and organizations how easy it is to respond and do something that will have immediate impact,” the singer added.
For Lester, the issue is all too familiar. The local organizer, who founded Love Beyond Walls with his wife, Cecilia, said he experienced homelessness as a teen.
“When I was experiencing homelessness being out there, you would have to go a mile or two to wash your hands or go to the bathroom,” he recalled. “I want to make sure we put stations in parts where people are under bridges, just in case someone wants to stop and wash their hands.”
Through his work, Lester said he’s doing his part to ensure people have access to basic necessities like clean water during the growing pandemic. He told ABS his organization has plans to take the initiative to other cities across the U.S., and he already has a few in mind.
“Our work with this campaign will not be finished until we’ve successfully installed washing stations in the highest homeless traffic areas across this nation,” Lester added. “I always say service isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle.”