Terence Lester founded the non-profit Love Beyond Walls to help those suffering from homelessness. During the Coronavirus pandemic, he hopes to make handwashing accessible to all.
There's nothing like a deadly virus that affects everyone equally regardless of class, race, gender, and any other construct we have created for ourselves to remind us of how broken our social systems are. While some of us have the privilege to self-isolate in the comfort of our homes and work remotely, others do not have the basic infrastructure of shelter in order to protect themselves from Coronavirus. Unfortunately, during this public health crisis, it is the homeless community that is doubly at risk. This is because they typically do not have access to running water and other resources to stay safe. Therefore, Terence Lester, the executive director of the non-profit Love Beyond Walls, is providing sinks, water, and soap to those on the streets. As someone who was homeless in the past, he understands the struggle, CNN reports.
Lester was homeless as a teenager, so he knows that while all the medical experts recommend washing your hands more frequently, the homeless do not have the resources to do so. That is why he is on a mission to install portable sinks with soap and water around areas in Atlanta where homeless folks are known to congregate. The idea came to him when he thought about how they cannot even perform the basic act of washing their hands. "All the news reports are saying wash your hands, but the homeless population often can't," he said in an interview with CNN. "I was trying to think of how they will survive. How can they get through this when they can't even wash their hands? So, I decided to start there."
Therefore, he found a solution involving portable washbasins that are usually sold for RVs and camping. Each of these portable sinks is outfitted with a foot pump which brings water from a 5-gallon tank to the faucet. They also feature a built-in soap dispenser. Lester understood just how important this initiative was even before he could finish assembling the first sink. According to him, a homeless man walked up to him right as he was finishing up installing one sink. His name was Dmitry and he was one of the first to wash his hands using a portable sink. The executive director said, "Dmitry lives on the streets around our center, and he came up and asked if he could wash his hands. He hadn't washed them yet because he hadn't had any water." In a video uploaded to Twitter of him washing his hands, Dmitry states, "You have to wash your hands; if you don't, you are going to get sick. If you touch anything, then wash your hands."
Dmitry, was the first person to use the station yesterday to wash his hands.— lovebeyondwalls (@LoveBeyondWalls) March 19, 2020
He told us he hadn’t been able to wash his hands because he hadn’t had any water. This was his first response!
.#lovebeyondwalls @lovebeyondwalls pic.twitter.com/rGmsYTLpFV
Since then, Lester and his non-profit organization Love Beyond Walls have installed even more sinks. The non-profit paired up with Grammy-winning artist Lecrae and Reach Records to provide the first 15 portable sinks in neighborhoods across Atlanta. Lester stated, "It is encouraging to me that someone like him and the platform he has, that he is willing to roll up his sleeves and serve alongside you." After they are assembled, the Love Beyond Walls team picks the portable sinks up every day in order to clean them and refill each unit with water and soap. At present, the organization is looking for donations to install more sinks across the city. They also hope to ship the portable sinks to other states, where they can benefit even more homeless communities. "I hope this catches on and spreads across the country," Lester stated. "Even more than that, these sinks can spark the conversation of what else we can do to help the homeless facing this pandemic."