Downtown Denver Public Toilet Inventory

Downtown Public Toilet Inventory

Purpose Below is an inventory of those restrooms in the Downtown and Curtis Park areas with some level of public access. It serves the purpose of cataloguing the availability – or lack thereof – of basic personal-care facilities available for people who are homeless. Not a single one of these restrooms meets the criteria of being open 24/7 to all regardless of membership or payment, with water available, and of a standard above that of a porta-potty.

An immediate catalyst for the inventory came when, at the June 4th Meeting, Councilwoman Susan Shepard asked precisely how many public toilets were present downtown. Hopefully, this inventory will answer that question. At the same time, Denver Homelessness Out Loud and other homeless advocacy groups have long pointed to the importance of boosting such resources in the city, and have sought to improve them. The availability of public restrooms is of crucial importance. Currently, urinating outside is an inevitability for people who are homeless, yet it exposes them to police citation and ticketing. What is more, when an individual fails to pay a citation, or appear in court for it, they become subject to arrest. Thus, simply fulfilling a basic human need ultimately results in arrest. This greatly stalls that individual’s ability to extricate her or himself from homelessness. The inventory below was gathered through surveying Downtown on bike. It has been detailed and supplemented with local knowledge of those facilities.

What Does “Accessible to the Public” Mean? When reviewing the inventory, it is important to determine what criteria a facility must meet in order to be truly “accessible” to the “public.” While all of the bathrooms below are open to the general public in some ways, they also pose certain obstacles for use, especially for homeless people.

One problem is the limited hours during which many facilities are open. None of the restrooms listed are open 24/7, without regard to payment or membership. When these facilities close in the evenings and on the weekends, a bottleneck is created regarding available toilets.

Another problem is that many institutions place restrictions on who can use their facilities. The St. Francis, Father Woody’s and Samaritan House locations only provide easy access for their guests. Many recreation centers charge users payment to use their facilities, and may prohibit individuals who appear homeless from using their facilities. The Greyhound Bus toilets are not considered public in any way, since they are available to paying customers only. It is included here only because of a common perception that it is publicly available.

A third problem is the quality of the facilities. Civic Center Park does have porta-potties which are available at all hours, if one does not heed park curfew. Their conditions, however, are subpar, lacking running water, which poses a serious health risk. Skyline Park also has porta-potties available, but only during special occasions and events. It should be noted that not a single one of these restrooms on this list meets the criteria of being open 24/7 to all regardless of membership or payment, with water available, and of a standard above that of a porta-potty.

Next Steps

With the limitations outlined above in mind, city authorities and advocates alike must envision restrooms that truly meet the needs of our whole community – that are clean, free, open twenty four hours a day, and accessible to all. Only by doing so can we hope to break the cycle of petty citation and jailing, empower individuals to lift themselves from homelessness, and meet a basic human need to pee and poop.

How many public restrooms are needed Downtown? In the Point-In-Time survey conducted in January 2014, The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative concluded 3,245 homeless individuals were living in the City and County of Denver (1). This number differs significantly from the 4,905 reported in the 2013 survey (2). This discrepancy does not necessarily reflect a significant decrease in the homeless population due to homeless people finding housing or moving out of denver. For one, it is in part due to the implementation of the Urban Camping Ban, which has forced homeless individuals into more secluded areas away from police officers — as well as those surveying the homeless. It also reflects a change in counting. In 2013, HUD changed it’s definition of homelessness. Those living at friends, in transitional housing, or couch-surfing no longer counted as homeless, but rather “at-risk” of homelessness. Before 2013 they were counted as homeless (indeed living without a home of their own). Both counts are low estimates, given the difficulty in locating every single homeless individual over the course of a single night. In any case it is hard to say with absolute certainty how many homeless people in the City and County of Denver, let alone in Downtown Denver specifically. We estimate a range between 1500 and 3000 people based on available data and anecdotal observation.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for restrooms in the workplace roughly equate to two restrooms for every forty employees (3). At 1,500, the homeless population downtown would require a minimum of 38 restrooms. At 3,000 individuals, 76 restrooms. Note that OSHA defines restrooms (water closets) as necessarily including potable water. Of course, Downtown cannot be considered a “workplace,” but the OSHA calculations are based on sound biological, health and safety needs appropriate for any concentration or population of individuals. Even counting the 25 restrooms listed below, Denver would need to invest in an additional 13 public restrooms at a minimum, notwithstanding the inadequate nature of the already existing facilities, in order to meet the needs of the homeless population downtown.

In Portland one “Portland Loo” (a solar powered toilet and sink) costs $90,000 to purchase and install and $14,400 to maintain it for a year (4). The cost to install and maintain thirteen Portland Loos for a year would equal just under $1.3 million. Based on a higher estimate of the homeless population, and rightfully not counting the the already existing facilities, which as stated above do not meet the standards being truly “public,” the City would need to construct 76 restrooms at just over $7.9 million. Such measures would help homeless individuals meet their basic needs while also alleviating the strain on law enforcement officers who ticket people who are homeless for pooping and peeing in public. What is more, public restrooms would be a resource available to all who live, work, and enjoy Downtown.

Many other solutions exist in addition to the the Portland Loos that address the lack of facilities available for people who are homeless. These include more fully functioning Urban Rest Stops, increases is affordable housing, and measures to employ homeless individuals. More in-depth conversations and analysis are required to decide which combination of solutions will work best for Denver, but delays in pursuing practical projects are inexcusable.

Sources

1. 2014, Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, “2014 State of Homelessness, City and

County of Denver” http://mdhi.org/

2. 2013, Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, “2013 State of Homelessness, City and

County of Denver” http://mdhi.org/downloads/

3. 2013, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Code of Federal Regulations,

Title 29 Labor, § 1910.141 Sanitation.” http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2013-title29-

vol5/

xml/CFR-2013-title29-vol5-sec1910-141.xml

4. The City of Portland Oregon, “The Portland Loo.” https://

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/59293

 

Glenarm Recreation Center

2800 Glenarm Pl, 80205

(720) 865-3380

Mon/Wed:10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Tue/Thu: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Fri: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Sat: 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM

Sun: Closed

20th Street Recreation Center

1011 20th St., 80202

(720) 865-0520

Mon-Thu:6:30 AM – 8:00 PM

Fri: 6:30 AM – 7:00 PM

Sat: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Sun: Closed

La Alma Recreation Center

1325 W. 11th Ave., 80204

(303) 572-4790

Mon-Thurs:10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Fri: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Sat: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Sun: Closed

Rude Recreation Center

2855 W. Holden Pl., 80204

(720) 865-0570

Mon-Thu:6:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Fri: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Sat: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Sun: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Ashland Recreation Center

2475 W Dunkeld Pl, 80211

(720) 865-0510

Mon-Thu:6:00 AM – 8:30 PM

Fri: 11:30 AM – 8:30 PM

Sat: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Sun: Closed

Blair-Caldwell Library

2401 Welton St, 80205

(720) 865-2115

Mon: 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Tue: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Wed: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Thu/Fri:10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Sat:

Sun:

Closed

Central Public Library

2401 Welton St, 80205

(720) 865-2115

Mon: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Tue: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Wed:10:00 PM – 6:00 PM

10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Thu:

10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Fri:

Sat:

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Sun:

Note: individuals may be banned

from the library

Byers Branch Library

675 Santa Fe Dr.

(720) 865-0160

Mon: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Tue: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Wed:10:00 PM – 8:00 PM

10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Thu:

10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Fri:

Sat:

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Sun:

Closed

Harm Reduction Action Center

733 Santa Fe Dr.

(303) 572-7800

Mon-Fri: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Sat-Sun: Closed

Denver Inner City Parish

1212 Mariposa St.

(303) 629-0636

Mon-Thurs:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Fri: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Sat-Sun: Closed

Scum of the Earth Church

937 W. 11th Ave

(303) 832-2586

Sunday: 10:00 AM

Denver Rescue Mission

1130 Park Avenue West, 80205

(303) 294-0157

Mon-Sun: 5:30am-8:00pm

Note: Restrooms are not ADA

accessible

Salvation Army

2136 Champa St

Denver, CO 80205

(303) 295-3366

Hours unknown.

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless Champa Street Location

2111 Champa Street 80205

Mon-Fri: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Sat/Sun: Closed

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless Stout Street Location

2100 Broadway

Denver, Colorado 80205

(303) 293-3977

Sat/Sun: Closed

Christ’s Body Ministries

850 Lincoln Street Denver, CO 80203

303-860-1272

Mon: 12:30 – 3:00PM

Tues-Thu:10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Fri: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Main offices closed

Sat:

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Sun:

St. Francis

2323 Curtis St

303-297-1576

Must fill out form to get

on list to access facilities.

One also may be banned

from using the toilets.

Father Woody’s Haven of Hope

1101 W 7th Ave. 80204

(303) 607-0855

Must fill out form to get

on list to access facilities.

One also may be banned

from using the toilets.

Samaritan House

Address: 2301 Lawrence Street 80205

Phone: (303) 294-0241

Only open to guest living there.

Skyline Park

Arapahoe between 16th and 15th Avenues

Regularly closed for repairs

Civic Center Park

100 W 14th Avenue Pkwy, 80204

Open everyday during park hours, 6am-11pm.

In poor condition, filthy.

Pavillions

Address: 500 16th St. 80202

Phone: (303) 454-9032

Mon-Sat:10:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Sun: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Door is not ADA accessible.

Union Station

1701 Wynkoop St.

(303) 534-1012

Open 24/7 once renovated, accessible at discretion of RTD authorities. Intended only for paying

customers and enforced by security guards, and homeless individuals have been regularly asked

to leave the facilities.

Greyhound Bus Station

Open 6:00 AM – 1:00 AM daily.

Available to paying customers only,

enforced by security.

3 comments

  1. I am more lucky than most, as I have a minvan to live in, and thus have containers for emergency pee and poop. The last time I attempted to use a portapotty set up for homeless people was in Santa Fe, NM. The first time I tried, the level of poop was actually higher than the seat, yet centered inside the seat. It is amazing that people managed that somehow to poop without soiling the seat. I figured it would have been cleaned soon after, and maybe it was. I tried to use it again after a week had passed. It was even more full this time, with poop flowing out over the seat. I still don’t know how people managed to do this. Being asked to manage such an acrobatic feat is extremely cruel. Using pottapottys to meet the needs of thousands is inhumane and impossible to comply with. As for the water issue, I am more concerned about drinking than washing water, due to the consequences of dehydration on both physical and mental health. I do not know the current policy of the Gathering Place on this, but for a very long time, women at the Gathering Place were not allowed to carry drinks including water (not even in a water bottle), nor to drink outside the dining room other than from a drinking fountain. I know of people there who ended up hospitalized for pneumonia and severe kidney disorder due to this policy. The dehydration resulting from this policy also led to deterioration of my feet such that I could barely walk which took over a year for recovery. Understanding the consequences of dehydration, I imagine that it may have led to mental health hospitalizations (which may be difficult to exit from if you have insurance) and other medical collapse where the actual cause of chronic dehydration might have been overlooked. I myself developed chronic bladder issues, resolved only after hearing in a documentary, a person with a kidney infection told to “go” immediately whenever she needed to–not to delay. Hard for a homeless person. My own pee jar got more immediate and frequent use after that, and I am fine now. Homeless people living outside don’t have that option. The issues of both toilets and water are severe, obvious, overlooked, and devastating to homeless persons.

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