In the next few weeks, residents and businesses in the 500 West and Rio Grande Street area will see significant changes to the landscape — including the addition of several new portable restrooms, increased police foot patrols, new fencing, more trash cans, and stepped-up “Clean Team” shifts to help dispose of biohazards in the neighborhood.
On July 19th the Community Connection Center (CCC) opened for business at 511 West 200 South. A key element in the city’s long-term strategy to address homelessness, the CCC will be staffed by caseworks and social workers and provide short-term therapy and crisis intervention, as well as assist people in finding jobs and transportation, and navigating behavioral health and substance abuse treatment services.
“This center is designed to serve those most in need, those who are most at risk of being taken advantage of by the criminal element who prey on them simply because they are experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Biskupski said. “Providing concrete services to this population will alleviate some of the stress neighbors and businesses are feeling, as will addressing ongoing safety and hygiene issues.”
To that end, city crews have begun removing landscape-style rocks in the median along 500 West, said Lisa Schafer, Interim Director of the Department of Public Services. The rocks have been used to conceal syringes and other drug paraphernalia.
“We will remove the rocks and dispose of them, they won’t be reused,” Lisa said.
New portable restrooms recently funded by the City Council will begin arriving in late July. Selected locations for 12 restrooms in the area will each feature one trailer with one ADA accessible restroom and one trailer with two single-occupancy restrooms. The first facility will go in at 500 West and 400 South.
Restrooms have increasingly become sites for drug use and other criminal behavior. Prevention efforts are underway for this problem as well, with 8-foot fencing going up around the facilities. Attendants will also be present at the restrooms to enforce cleaning needs and time limits. The facilities are expected to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Parks Department employees will tow the restrooms to a secure facility at night for maintenance and will tow them back to the area in the morning.
Clean Team crews, which dispose of human waste and litter, will increase their shifts and coverage area. The teams will fan out between 400 South and 200 South and between 400 West and 600 West.
Help is coming to The Road Home site, too. Long lines outside the shelter provide easy concealment for drug dealing and other criminal activity. Exterior fencing will be modified, allowing lines to form inside the property instead of extending along the sidewalk.
The changes are all in in line with Mayor Biskupski’s commitment to address homelessness in a more holistic way, including the process underway to find the most appropriate locations for two new homeless resource centers. This model will provide not only shelter, but also on-site social services for people experiencing homelessness.
Updated 8/09/16: New LED lighting will be installed along Rio Grande Street and 500 West, on Wednesday August 10th, to make the streets brighter and safer.