On Tuesday April 21st 2020, we in Denver Homeless Out Loud placed 4 portable toilets at encampments in the area, along with hand washing stations placed by Mutual Aid Denver on Wednesday. Residents of the camps will be doing extra daily cleanings of the toilets. Hundreds of people who cannot afford housing are staying at the tent encampments in this overall area and have been left without access to basic hygiene needs as the City has refused to even listen to this demand from camp residents.
Toilets and hand washing stations are always needed where people live outside without access to bathrooms. Yet now, in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, they are ever more vital! The CDC put out a guidance on encampments weeks ago stating that;
-Encampments should not be swept/displaced during this crisis
-Tents should have 12 feet of space per tent (some space between each tent)
-Cities should provide portable bathrooms and handwashing with water and soap at every encampment of 10 people or more
After weeks of asking, the City of Denver has still failed to follow this guidance on providing portable toilets or hand washing stations. They have mostly followed the guidance on not sweeping encampments, and did say they “will not displace people or their property from encampments during this emergency,” however even that they have seemed to “forget” a number of times and threatened camps with move on orders regardless.
Staying outside at encampments is safer from COVID spread than staying in shelters as each person has their own private tent, is not sharing the same closed air, surfaces, ect that is the case in a mass shelter environment.
Everyone needs and deserves safe housing. There is enough vacant housing for all who are homeless, but the Governor continues to refuse to mandate that housing be opened. In the meanwhile…people living outside need access to bathrooms and water. If the City is not going to do their job we will have to do it for them.