More than 1,200 guests had used Calgary’s downtown washroom since the pilot closed off its first month in May, with nearly 30 responses to the locations for drug-related concerns.

The City of Calgary launched the Downtown Washroom Attendant Pilot Project with the hopes of improving the experience and safety of Calgarians and visitors at select parks.

The pilot project, first launched on May 8, sees Olympic Plaza and Century Gardens monitored by washroom attendants.

The program focuses on hiring people experiencing barriers to paid work including people with lived experience with mental health, addiction, or houselessness.

The program budget is $600,000 and is funded through the Government of Alberta Downtown Revitalization Fund and will run from May 8 until Oct. 9, 2023. The program is administered by the Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly (AAWEAR) and employs 18 people.

“Employees receive a living wage, benefits and vacation,” read an email response from The City of Calgary.

“The budget also includes administrative support, supplies and important training to ensure staff have all the tools necessary to respond to concerns in the parks, and to protect their physical and psychological safety.”

From May 8 – May 25 the two parks have seen 1,264 washroom guests according to The City of Calgary. Among those guests, there were 28 incidents where attendants responded to common drug overdose symptoms. Of these 28 incidents, naloxone (which is a medication used to reduce the effects of opioids) was needed 12 times.

These are the baseline statistics The City of Calgary will be using moving forward throughout the project, they said.

Public concern about the program has come up on social media platforms after pictures have been posted showing some of the challenges. It included one of someone who looked to be passed out in the attendant tent with no attendants in the area.

Safety matter

Safety in areas at-or-near LRT stations has been an issue in Calgary for more than a year. Citizens have regularly expressed their frustration with social disorder on the system.

Both Olympic Plaza and Century Gardens are near LRT stations (City Hall, Centre Street and 8 Street SW respectively).

Concern over public safety in those areas has been expressed online after the picture of the person passed out gained traction on social media.

Lausanne Mackay, who used to perform as part of the theatre program at Olympic Plaza, said safety has been an issue before with the washrooms.

“We were actually encouraged to use the washrooms in Arts Commons for safety reasons,” Mackay said.

“I’ll never use the bathrooms at Olympic Plaza because it was kind of instilled in me that it was an unsafe environment.”

The program’s cost has also drawn a response among Calgarians online, but Mackay feels this isn’t a terrible investment.

“There are always events (at Olympic Plaza). If people aren’t feeling comfortable using the washrooms and people are like, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t want to go to the event because what if I have to go to the bathroom.’ I think it’s a reasonable investment considering how popular Olympic Plaza is,” Mackay said.

Last week, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, along with law enforcement officials, rode the LRT in the downtown with media, to discuss some of the improvements that have been made to help with safety in the area.

According to the city, cost breakdowns and financial details on the downtown washroom attendant pilot will be available to the public when the pilot wraps up in the fall.

Report an Error or Typo