The Denver Parks department wants to order $10 million worth of prefabricated toilets with drinking fountains.
It’s good news for people experiencing homelessness who struggle to find toilets in the city. A survey conducted in September for Housekeys Action Network Denver by Regis University and the University of Denver describes how 82% of people did not have access to a restroom within two blocks of their encampment. More than two-thirds did not have access to drinking water within two blocks. The researchers interviewed 193 people experiencing homelessness in Denver and held five focus groups from 2020 to 2023. The group mapped 271 fountains and public toilets in Denver.
The City Council will vote on the new toilets for the parks department at Monday’s meeting. As part of the $10 million purchase over four years, the contract with Green Flush Technologies LLC, doing business as Green Flush restrooms, calls for small, medium, and large restrooms. Small restrooms are 10 feet by 20 feet and a minimum of nine feet tall. The package comes as two unisex restrooms, each with a water closet, sink and hand dryer. One ADA-accessible drinking fountain with bottle filler will be installed on the outside of the building. Medium sized restrooms are 17 feet by 23 feet and a minimum of nine feet tall. There will be a men’s and a women’s restroom. The men’s restroom will have one toilet and two urinals. The women’s restrooms will have three toilets. Both will have sinks. There will be an ADA-accessible drinking fountain on the outside of the building. Large restrooms for men and women are 22 feet by 33 feet and a minimum of nine feet tall. The men’s restroom will feature three urinals and two toilets. The women’s restroom will feature five toilets. A drinking fountain will be attached to the outside of the building.
Nowhere to ‘go’
The September survey found:
Closed bathrooms: “38% of plumbed park facilities were not open or functioning during normal weekday hours in the summer of 2022, 49% of all park toilets (and nearly all plumbed facilities) were seasonal and closed from October through April, and park toilets were officially closed from sunset to 6 a.m.,” according to the executive summary for the survey.
Inadequate facilities: “Many bathrooms, especially porta potties, were unclean and missing toilet seats, doors, locks, toilet paper and/or hand washing facilities,” according to the summary. “Slightly more than half of all bathrooms had either soap and water or hand sanitizer, 54% had Americans with Disabilities Act access.”
Coping with the lack of public toilets: “Almost half of respondents reported that they must regularly urinate and defecate without any toilet: either in their tent (using a bag), an outdoor place, or an alley or dumpster,” according to the summary. “About a third of the respondents regularly used business toilets.”
Gender issues: “Women, transgender and gender nonconforming people faced additional barriers when attempting to access toilets, which put their health and safety at risk,” according to the summary, “with 23% of the open bathrooms not having functioning locks. Nearly all of the permanent bathroom facilities lacked gender neutral bathrooms. Most seriously, two women we talked to were raped using porta potties at night.”