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A (clean) helping hand

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International District resident Michael Chau uses the newly-installed hand-washing station on Charleston SE near Zuni. The stations are being installed by East Central Ministries in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Washing hands is important to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases. For people experiencing homelessness, and anyone else without access to clean water and soap, it may also be a luxury.

To address this issue, East Central Ministries and local volunteers built a hand-washing station on Charleston SE between Zuni and Central.

“Our projects come out of the needs in the community,” said John Bulten, director of East Central Ministries. “Our unhoused neighbors don’t have access to hand-washing, especially as many public buildings have closed.”

At least one homeless person in Albuquerque has tested positive for COVID-19.

The group used a donated tank originally designated for catching rainwater. The installation – leveling the ground, scrubbing the tank, filling it with clean water, and adding soap and a sign – took a few hours.

“This is a good way to help folks who don’t have access to running water,” said Enrique Cardiel, who is on the Bernalillo County Community Health Council and helped install the station. “Public health is underfunded, so these community-based projects become even more important.”

The group has two more tanks and is planning to install another hand-washing station soon at the East Central Ministries office on Vermont NE.

“This virus is tragic, but it’s also exposing much larger issues, like how we have not invested enough in sanitation and safety for our community,” Bulten said. “Everyone can come together with creative solutions.”

Bulten said the hand-washing station is small and simple, but a great example of the community working together to address an immediate problem.

“We’re caring for each other, and I think that’s a lesson to be learned in these times,” he said. “These are our neighbors.”

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

East Central Ministries installs hand-washing station

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East Central Ministries founder and Director John Bulten secures a soap bottle at a new hand-washing station on Vermont NE near Central as an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

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