PPE for the people
New initiative to bring protective equipment to underserved parts of Houston
Through a collaboration between a 3D printing company and a nonprofit organization, small businesses in underserved parts of town are able to apply to receive personal protective equipment donations.
"All of the emerging data indicates that, while a coronavirus may not discriminate, disparities that already exist in society are putting communities of color at a disproportionately higher risk of infection, serious illness, and death from COVID-19," says Grace Rodriguez, CEO and executive director of Impact Hub Houston.
According to a news release, the initiative will support workers across industries — from restaurants employees and bus and delivery drivers to small businesses that seek to reopen safely, like barbershops and nail salons.
Impact Hub Houston works to prioritize inclusion in Houston, which has been recognized as the most diverse city in the nation.
"There a number of societal factors that are leading to disproportionately higher COVID-19 cases and deaths among minority communities," says Rodriguez, specifying that these factors include lack of access to health care, overrepresentation of people of color in jobs considered essential, and more.
To start, the initiative has identified the southeast, south, and southwest parts of Houston to deliver four types of 3D-printed PPE: face shields, ear savers, hands-free door opener, and splash guards.
"re:3D has extensively researched PPE production for COVID-19 throughout the crisis as well as collaborated with healthcare workers, first responders, and local businesses to identify where there are gaps in their ability to protect themselves and their customers," says re:3D's community liaison, Charlotte Craff. "We have started with these items because we are confident they fill those needs."
The campaign, which is raising money and seeking volunteers online, began Wednesday, May 6, and expects to deliver its first PPE next week. The organizations are looking into expanding the PPE offered, as well as their reach, but it depends on fundraising.
"We would like to expand the project to serve communities in the northeast and other high-risk areas of Houston, but that all depends on how much funding we can raise to keep producing and delivering PPE," Rodriguez explains.
According to the release, Impact Hub Houston is financially supporting the initiative through its Fiscal Sponsorship Program, which re:3D applied to. The H-Force network, a crisis collaboration, is also lending its support to this initiative.
"We are honored to help those who are most vulnerable," says Craff in the release. "Data from the CDC has shown minority communities are at greater risk of critical illness from COVID-19, and we want to help local small businesses protect their employees as best as possible without it being an added financial burden on already strained industries."