Handwashing in a Time of Covid-19: A DIY Los Angeles Story

In Skid Row, an area on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles, more than 2,700 people live unsheltered on the street.

City leaders, concerned that the new coronavirus could spread rapidly in the absence of adequate hygiene, ordered 250 public handwashing stations in mid-March. The stations were intended to cover all districts of the city with high concentrations of people experiencing homelessness, but only a few were placed in Skid Row.

Even those that did arrive in Skid Row were prone to failure. According to a street survey conducted a few days following the city’s action, several of the stations there lacked water and soap.

The survey was conducted by members of Los Angeles Community Action Network, a community group that is leading a grassroots movement to build, deploy, and maintain handwashing stations in Skid Row, according to a report in The Conversation.

“LA CAN places the hand-washing stations with street community leaders that the organization knows from its years of organizing work in the neighborhood. These leaders maintain the stations, explain how they work to other Skid Row residents, share knowledge about safe practices and generally support their community. To refill the stations, they call on nearby supporters including housed neighbors and adjacent buildings and stores, some of whom also provide liquid soap and sanitizer — a grassroots networks in action.”

The DIY designs can be built more quickly and at lower cost than commercial models, which are back-ordered due to high demand.

Earlier this week, Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that city workers would check soap and water levels at handwashing stations daily, Curbed LA reports.

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