AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the last several weeks, health officials have made it clear to the public the importance of washing hands and keeping common areas disinfected. Health officials said this is just one of the steps people need to take to help flatten the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some, simply washing their hands can be a difficult task; this is especially true for those experiencing homelessness.
“It’s a simple right for people to wash their hands,” says Aaron Reyes, the lead pastor at HOPE Community Church in east Austin.
Reyes and Associate Pastor Rondell Trevino took it upon themselves to help one of the community’s most vulnerable populations. The pastors said since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, they noticed a need.
“A number of convenience stores, recreation centers and other places where these men and women would normally go to wash their hands and use the restroom have closed,” Reyes said, “and they don’t have access to that anymore, so that became a burden on our heart.”
The pastors decided to invest in over a dozen portable hand-washing stations to place across Austin. The devices are a 4-foot tall, 6-pound portable sink featuring a 5-gallon water tank, a soap dispenser, and a manual foot pump.
They plan to maintain a couple of the stations by refilling them with water and sanitizing daily. At present, there is only one hand-washing station located near Airport Blvd. and U.S. 290 in northeast Austin.
Two other Austin churches have agreed to adopt and maintain hand-washing stations. The pastors said their goal to keep these up and running long after the pandemic is over.
“Even if COVID-19 suppresses they still need to be there, so it’s not just something we want to do for a season,” Trevino said. “It’s something we want to do long-term.”
Trevino is also the founder of The Immigration Coalition, a nonprofit focused on providing resources for those going through the immigration process. Trevino said about eight hand-washing stations will be placed at the border. The nonprofit founder said he connected with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who have agreed to keep up with the portable sink.
Each sink costs around $200 and are provided through LoveBeyondWalls, a nonprofit based in Atlanta, Georgia, tackling issues facing the homelessness community.
HOPE Community Church pastors said they were able to raise over $5,000 to fund this effort.