Frequent hand-washing is key to slowing the COVID-19 outbreak—but the more than 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. on any given night often have no way to do it.
Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit focused on poverty awareness and community mobilization, has teamed up with mobile hygiene pioneer LavaMaex to expand critical access to hand-washing stations across the country. LavaMaex joins phase two of Love Beyond Walls’ Love Sinks In initiative, which provides basic hygiene resources for people experiencing homelessness and protects communities by reducing the aggressive spread of COVID-19.
National mandates have instructed people to shelter in place, practice social distancing, and wash their hands frequently; however, these critical safety guidelines present a unique challenge for those experiencing homelessness.
Love Beyond Walls is strategically collaborating with stakeholders, government officials, the private sector and philanthropic partners to implement this campaign in communities with significant homeless populations. Recognized in the “One World: Together at Home” Global Citizen special, the Love Beyond Walls Love Sinks In campaign launched in Atlanta, with Grammy award–winning artist Lecrae, to place mobile sinks in over 10 locations in the city of Atlanta. Since then, through partnerships with Google, the NFL Player’s Coalition and more, over 65 sinks have been dispatched to 6 cities and counting nationwide.
LavaMaex has been working independently on its DIY hand-washing stations and jumped at the chance to join the Love Sinks In initiative. “This partnership will enable more communities to provide on-street hand-washing stations more quickly, and it will save lives,” says Kris Kepler, chief program and strategy officer at LavaMaex, a nonprofit accelerator that’s building a worldwide network of providers who take critical services to the street.
After all, everything that LavaMaeX does is rooted in Radical Hospitality, Kepler adds. “In this time of crisis, unhoused people everywhere desperately need a way to wash their hands. Not only do the handwashing stations provide a critical step in preventing infection, they’re a way for communities to connect with their unhoused neighbors. By providing a solution for public hygiene, we are making it clear that the unhoused are not forgotten.”
In the next phase, San Francisco–based LavaMaex, reflecting its accelerator approach, is providing a do-it-yourself tool kit that enables any community to quickly set up high-capacity hand-washing stations for its unhoused neighbors. LavaMaex is also bringing partners to the initiative, including Unilever’s The Right to Shower brand, which is funding deployments by LavaMaex replicators and donating soaps to them. Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles is expected to be first out on the street with 25 DIY units staffed by the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
Inspired by Love Beyond Walls, and a model co-created by students at the USC Annenberg School of Communication in partnership with Los Angeles Community Action Network, their handwashing station can hold enough water for up to 500 hand washes at a time. “Our goal is to ensure that handwashing becomes accessible in every community that needs it,” Kepler says, adding that they found handwashing station rentals were expensive, hard to find and few were available for purchase.
“Our DIY prototype is made from readily accessible materials that are relatively low in cost compared to commercial handwashing rentals, and can be built, deployed, and maintained by communities anywhere there is access to fresh water and grey water disposal.”
Love Sinks In is a demonstration of Love Beyond Walls’ commitment to restore dignity to the homeless and poor. Focused on telling the stories of the often forgotten, its mission is to provide a voice, visibility, community, and support services to aid people experiencing poverty to achieve self-sufficiency.
“As the world is taking heed to a global pandemic and stressing the importance of sanitizing and washing hands, I know there is an entire community of people experiencing homelessness who are not able to do any of those things,” shares Terence Lester, founder of Love Beyond Walls. “Many are high risk, and they are concerned about their health too. As a solution, we want to ensure people have access to the basic human right of washing hands as a preventative measure against contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.”
Details on the Love Beyond Walls portable sink program, downloadable plans for LavaMaex DIY hand-washing stations, and ways to support the Love Sinks In initiative are all available on the Love Sinks In website.
About Love Beyond Walls
Love Beyond Walls is a movement birthed out of the hope that love is greater than walls. One of the most distinguishable characteristics about our organization is our focus on telling the stories of the unseen. We are committed to people that the world passes by because we believe the people struggling with poverty and sleeping on the streets have lives and stories that are just as valuable as ours.
LavaMaex is a nonprofit accelerator that transforms the way communities around the world see and serve their unhoused neighbors. Through its open source toolkit, in-depth training and strategic partnerships, LavaMaex is building a worldwide network of providers who take critical services for the unhoused to the street. Everything LavaMaex does is rooted in its philosophy of Radical Hospitality®—meeting people wherever they are with extraordinary care.