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In my last blog entry, I wrote about going from aspirational to operational. I was very happy to have finally launched our idea of improving toilet access for the unhoused community of the Grand Valley. Well, the glow of that success has already been dimmed by new challenges. I now understand that aspirational is fun and dreamy, operational is a path of mistakes and hard work.

After placing our two toilets, I was informed by the City that TE did not have permission to locate a toilet on city-owned land, as we had previously understood. I met with City management who told me they were committed to the provision of ongoing toilet access and had a plan and budget for this through 2024. The City would not need Toilet Equity to assist with the provision/improvement of toilet access. City management suggested that TE consider partnering with private businesses. To say I was disappointed was, in the moment, quite an understatement.

On further reflection, I realized we have already established a partnership with a private “business” in our relationship and toilet placement with the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Grand Valley. Despite that toilet being set on fire by vandals, we have had a very successful relationship with the Unitarian Universalists. We know the toilet is used multiple times daily because TE volunteers touch our toilet every day, cleaning and maintaining it. We are now seeking other private businesses that understand and want to support the fundamental need of toilet access for those with unstable and precarious living situations.

Toilet Equity believes it is a matter of human dignity and gender equity that everyone has reliable access to a clean and private toilet 24 hours a day, a condition provided by stable housing. But the reality is that Mesa County has the highest per capita rate of houselessness in Colorado. Accepting that reality means that housing status cannot be the primary determinant of whether someone defecates in a private toilet or publicly squats in an alley or along the river. Partnering with the City would have provided a wide platform upon which to systematically disperse our toilets but TE is walking the operational path, learning from mistakes, moving forward and pivoting to long term private partners to achieve our goal.

After all, a civil and vibrant community deserves nothing less.


Newsletter post from 10/2/23

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