Emmanuel House Guests Create Breathing Masks to Help Keep Themselves, Staff Safe


PROVIDENCE — Despite their already difficult circumstances, guests of the diocesan Emmanuel House men’s homeless shelter are taking an active role to help ensure that they and the staff who serve them have the gear they need to help protect all from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the guests began working with Site Director Dotty Perreault, who found a template that they could use as a guide, to create basic safety breathing masks out of readily available household materials.

And not only are they crafting from scratch enough masks to take care of their needs, the guests are anxious to create additional masks to help other shelters who may need them.

“Our residents are being so selfless and are so giving of their time throughout this,” Perreault said.

Perreault searched online and discovered a tutorial that would allow for a rudimentary safety mask to be crafted from blue shop cloths, elastics and staples, supplies all available locally for purchase.

Several of the guests formed an assembly line around dining tables at Emmanuel House. They folded each piece of cloth and stapled an elastic band to each end that will hold the face mask in place when worn.

“There’s a shortage of personal protection equipment throughout the healthcare industry,” said Jim Jahnz, supervisor of the diocese’s Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island.

“We really want to make sure that our guests, especially those who are elderly or health compromised, are safe during the current health crisis, along with our staff.”

After they made enough to cover the basic needs of the shelter, which remains filled to capacity each night, the guests expressed a desire to keep creating additional masks to share with other area shelters to protect their guests and staff.

“Some of the guests thought it would be great if we could help others,” Jahnz said.

The emergency overflow shelter, whose name, Emmanuel, means "God is with us," emphasizing the welcoming presence of Jesus, was opened three days before Christmas in 2010 in the former diocesan Carter Day Care Center on Public Street. The diocesan ministry helps communities meet a shortfall of beds each night for those who call the streets home.

Emmanuel House receives much of its support from donations to the annual Catholic Charity Appeal. The ministry also depends on grants and the generosity of the faithful from a number of parishes across the diocese who donate food and clothing, and others who have helped to make an impressive garden grow on the property, the bounty of which has fed guests of the shelter as well as others in need.

Continue to make an impact in this time of need
Because of the generosity of so many, the Catholic Charity Appeal is able to support numerous ministries and programs of the Diocese of Providence, providing social, educational and spiritual support to thousands of Rhode Islanders each year regardless of race, creed or background. These ministries continue to operate during the COVID-19 health crisis. Visit dioceseofprovidence.org/cca to learn more or to donate.