Volunteers team up to make, distribute masks to Cleveland’s homeless population

As people scramble for masks during the coronavirus pandemic, leaders in the Campus District are more concerned with protecting some of Cleveland’s most exposed people.

The Campus District and Across the Lines are collaborating to make masks and distribute them to the homeless population through “Mask the District.”

“[The homeless] are more vulnerable and at-risk, and just not at the forefront of a lot of our minds,” says Morgan Clark, AmeriCorps VISTA member with Campus District. She adds that the homeless are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because hygiene education on is lacking, many public restrooms are closed, and the shelters are densely populated.


The Campus District and Across the Lines are collaborating to make masks and distribute them to the homeless population through “Mask the District.”

Jane Finley, founder of Across the Lines, put Mask the District into action after working with the women of the YWCA Norma Herr Women’s Center.

“I was concerned about the women I knew at the shelter and I wondered if there was a need [for masks], so I reached out to the director of the shelter,” recalls Finley. She learned the from Rochena Crosby, Norma Herr’s senior director of shelter services, that masks were needed to keep the women at Norma Herr safe. Finley then turned to Clark for assistance.


So far, the Mask the District campaign has distributed about 500 masks and will continue to make and hand out more masks indefinitely.


“I am such a believer in the strength of community,” says Finley. “When one person has an idea and shares it with another, there’s that synergy.”


As word got out about Mask the District, more volunteers have come forward. There are now about 20 different organizations and individuals gathering materials and making masks.


We hope to build awareness around our current systems towards those experiencing homelessness, says Clark. “We are grateful to connect with our partners in ways to achieve this and hope to establish new connections as we are all working together to slow the spread and protect our vulnerable populations.”


The volunteer groups include Cleveland Sewing Company, which donated 150 masks, and the Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center, which donated t-shirts.


Additionally, the Cosgrove Center and Mastering Generosity Unlimited (MGU) distributed masks to the Central neighborhood during a recent MGU free lunch event. Loretta Wilson, an outreach specialist with Block by Block also has helped distribute the masks.


Mask the District still needs volunteers to make masks and needs donations of medium and large t-shirts. Thicker materials work better, explains Finley, to provide a better filter. The organization even provides a no-sew, step by step guide to making masks.


Finley notes that all masks are sanitized before they distributed. For more information, or to schedule a donation pickup, email Clark or Finley.

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