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Pilot program launched for bathroom attendants in downtown Calgary

The attendants will be training non-violent crisis intervention.

Starting on Monday, May 8, Calgarians should see cleaner and safer bathrooms at Olympic Plaza and Century Gardens.

The City of Calgary and Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly (AAWEAR) are launching a pilot program to employ 18 bathroom attendants at the two sites, enhancing safety for all users and increasing cleanliness.

Attendants will be at the bathrooms from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, except during ticketed events where the bathrooms would be closed to the general public.

“If we’re looking to make downtown a place that fosters human connections and brings people together we have to improve safety in our parks in our city,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

Additional duties for attendants include light litter cleanup in the surrounding park areas, and collecting information when incidents occur at the bathrooms.

The program, which has been budgeted for up to $600,000, is being entirely funded by the Government of Alberta, with the City of Calgary and AAWEAR managing the program.

The pilot will conclude in mid-October.

Living wage, and improving living conditions

Kathleen Larose, AAWEAR executive director, said that they would be hiring staff for the program that are currently unable to find paid work.

“We see this as a great way to provide employment opportunities to those currently experiencing barriers to paid work, as well as people who have gone through the living experience and who will be able to best support folks who do reside within this park,” she said.

Carmen Hindson, City of Calgary manager for centre city parks operations, said that the staff would be given a living wage.

“There’s also a lot of costs around just setting up this pilot project that’s just the establishment of it. We anticipate that if this pilot is successful, then all of those costs have already been made, and we’ll see a cost reduction going forward.”

Larose said that all of the staff would be given Naloxone and non-violent crisis intervention training, and would also have information on hand to provide to individuals about how to access social services.

“Our hope is that the presence of attendance at these two washrooms will improve the user experience and make these welcoming spaces for everyone over the course of this pilot,” she said.

“Attendants will work closely with a number of city services and social agencies including our community peace officers, Calgary Police Service, parks and open spaces operational staff, and social agencies such as the downtown outreach addictions program (DOAP) team.”

She said that the goal would be to transform the bathrooms and the spaces around them into more welcoming places for all Calgarians.