Duluth improves restroom access for the homeless
The city of Duluth is making more public bathrooms available for the city's homeless population this winter.
Members of the Duluth Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition worked with the city to install six portable toilets throughout downtown, Central Hillside and Lincoln Park. They also extended the hours of two indoor public restrooms in Canal Park and Bayfront Festival Park.
The Duluth Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition formed in 2013 to ensure homeless people can legally carry out basic life-sustaining activities.
Joel Kilgour, a volunteer with the Loaves and Fishes volunteer community, which helps shelter people experiencing homelessness, said that while the portable toilets were installed with the homeless community in mind, they are there for anyone to use.
"They aren't homeless bathrooms. They're community bathrooms and they're meeting a community need and it happens to be that homeless folks really, really need it. But so do tourists and parents out at the park," Kilgour said. "Hopefully, this is a benefit to everyone."
Kilgour said the city of Duluth and Mayor Emily Larson have been receptive and helpful throughout the process.
The coalition identified an area between the Rose Garden and Harrison Park, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, that tends to have a homeless demographic.
The city then developed a list of city-owned or city-managed sites in that stretch where portable toilets could be installed.
The coalition selected the final sites based on accessibility and expected usage.
"The locations and hours were a direct result of what the homeless advocacy group said would work for the homeless community," said Danielle Erjavec, a property services specialist with the city. "These amenities are only going to be beneficial if they are in locations that are easily accessible and readily available."
The portable toilets are located at:
• Midtown Park at North 21st Avenue West, between West First and Second streets
• Corner of 19th Avenue West and West Superior Street
• Bus turnaround beside M & H Gas Station at 1230 W. Michigan St.
• Central Hillside Park on North Lake Avenue, between East Third and Fourth streets
• Lake Superior Plaza at corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue, next to Electric Fetus
• (Coming soon) City parking lot west of the Depot on West Michigan Street
In addition to installing portable toilets, the city is extending the hours at two indoor, heated restrooms. The first, in Canal Park near the Endion Station, is now open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The other, in Bayfront Festival Park, also will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. once crews can install automatic locks on the doors.
This story originally appeared in the Weekly Observer, a weekly newspaper serving the neighborhoods of Duluth. For more information, go to www.duluthweeklyobserver.com.