Lars Eller of the Washington Capitals donated UV light sanitizing technology to the Central Union Mission homeless shelter in Washington on Friday.
The mission is located on Massachusetts Avenue and has been open for more than 135 years. It feeds and shelters 170-200 men per day, so curtailing the spread of the coronavirus there would be invaluable to the shelter's workers and those who rely upon it as a safe haven.
"The homeless community is a very vulnerable group because they might not have the same space we have and access to health care and sanitation and all these things," Eller said Thursday. "They're just a very vulnerable group, so we thought this is a great place we could help."
Eller said he always has been interested in how technology can help general wellness and health. He initially became familiar with Healthe Inc., the Melbourne, Florida-based company and spinoff of the Lighting Science Group that manufactures the Cleanse Portal he will donate, through their circadian lights that are used to improve sleep.
The Cleanse Portal entry gate, which looks similar to the walk-through metal detectors used in airports and at sports venue entrances, is placed inside a building entrance or a high-traffic area and uses Far-UVC light frequencies to deactivate viruses and pathogens on surfaces, lowering the risk of disease transmission.
"Traditional UV light is carcinogenic," Eller said. "It can end up causing cancer and it's bad for your eyes and all that. But the Far-UVC lights are safe for human exposure but still antibacterial, antimicrobial, so you have someone walk through the portal. If a person walks through this before they enter or leave a building, after 10-20 seconds inside this portal, everything the light shines on is now sanitized.
"So whatever was on you, on your hands, or your clothes, your hair, whatever the light shines on, if you hold up your phone against it or whatever, that's now sanitized and there's no risk to human exposure or downside to human beings, no toxic exposure or any of that."
After talking with Healthe Inc. founder Fred Maxik, a former NASA scientist, Eller was so impressed with him and the utilization of light technology that he invested in the company.
"I think the technology is a game changer and there's never been a bigger need for this than right now," Eller said.
With the NHL season paused since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Eller has had more time on his hands than usual, and he and his wife, Julie, have been looking for ways to help others in the Washington area while waiting out the pandemic. A friend suggested the Central Union Mission might be a good fit for the Cleanse Portal and Eller agreed.
The price tag of about $20,000 normally would be prohibitive for the shelter.
"I thought Central Union Mission being one of the oldest facilities of its kind, that was a great place to start with the history they have and everything they have done for the D.C. community," Eller said. "I think it just feels right."
Photo credit: Healthe/Lars Eller