AUSTIN, Texas - Health officials are still encouraging people to social distance as well as sanitizing and washing your hands. The homeless population isn’t always able to do that.
This month, an Atlanta-based nonprofit started distributing portable sinks and has recently expanded to 15 cities including Austin.
Terence Lester calls his mission in life God’s work. It’s a journey that’s been years in the making out of Atlanta.
Back in 2013, he asked his wife a question most wouldn’t think of doing. "Would you be willing to allow me to live as a person experiencing homelessness and would you allow me to experience living on the streets?"
Over time, Lester had built a relationship with a close friend named Curt, who lost his family in a car accident then became homeless shortly after.
"He lost his job and ended up on the backside of a shelter and he said there’s a shelter not too far away from here it’s about 400-500 guys, one restroom and the smell is so thick you can taste it," Lester said. "In fact I’ll probably be up all night protecting everything in this bag. And he challenged me he said I bet you won’t go and stay in there in that shelter you’ll probably be beside me because it’s more comfortable outside behind this building.”
Lester decided to do this for a month in the middle of December. "I'm eating out of trash cans, I have friends in this community that rallied around me. Some nights it would be so cold my toes would feel like popsicles," he said.
He came out on the other side driven to perform God’s work, starting a nonprofit called Love Beyond Walls. The first project was converting a church bus to a mobile makeover unit. To this day, 3,000 people have been given haircuts, showers, clothes, and other resources to “make them over.”
Fast forward to March this year, COVID-19 hit the U.S. and many public spaces were closing. "Members expressed their fears this was right before the shutdown. I'm afraid I’ll contract the coronavirus because I don’t have anywhere to wash my hands," Lester said.
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Seven weeks ago Lester’s nonprofit took on another project called “Love Sinks In.”
"The hand stations are portable and very easy to use. The base has five gallons of water," Lester said. "On the base is a foot pedal and a stand connects it to a sink which has a nozzle and soap dispenser. You step on it, it literally shoots water up through the nozzle and into the sink."
Lester says there’s also a drain funnel and volunteer crews sanitize the sinks and replenish water regularly.
"He was just grateful to wash his hands before he ate right? It’s simple to a lot of people but huge to a lot of people who don’t have access to this necessity," Lester says.
Three weeks ago, Love Sinks In expanded to Austin and is now in 15 cities across the country. The sinks are available at the following intersections around Austin, just to name a few:
- Airport Blvd/Koenig Ln
- Research Blvd/Burnet Rd
- I-35/7th St
- Cesar Chavez/Medina St
- I-35/Cesar Chavez
Hope Community Church in Austin is one of the partners. "As we reopen and continue physical distancing I believe there’s going to be a gap and shortage in how we are serving this plight," he says. "The divine is able to do impossible things."
Those interested can sponsor to have a sink installed in your area for $100 or can donate any amount to keep projects like these going.
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