Sunday, September 15, 2019

Demonstrators Keep the Restrooms Open at Louden Nelson Center

Demonstrators staged sit-ins in the men's and women's restrooms at Louden Nelson Center in Santa Cruz on September 3, effectively keeping the facilities open to the public for an extended period of time. Once open to all, the Louden Nelson restrooms have been closed to the public since 2018, which staff claims is due to complaints of vandalism and drug use. To enter the restrooms, a person must either be a patron or customer of the center, and punch in an electronic pass-code provided by the attendant at the front counter. Those at the demonstration were particularly concerned about the effects the restroom closures have had on homeless residents in the area, who often congregate in the park adjacent to the Louden Nelson Center where there are no other services.



During the demonstration today, Rabbi Philip Posner occupies the men's restroom at Louden Nelson Center in order to keep it open to the public

Demonstrators were able to gain entry to the restrooms during the senior lunch service, when the doors are sometimes left open. They expected that attendants would arrive and lock the facilities back up after the luncheon was over, but that did not occur, and the public was allowed to enter the restrooms freely while demonstrators sat quietly by.

Gloria Rovay, who occupied the women's restroom for quite some time, noted that there were six stalls in that bathroom. She said that they would not see the same use now that the restrooms are being locked.

"This place has been around for a long time," Rovay said. "This is a community center. What has changed?"

Rovay said she believes the closure of the restrooms was motivated by a segment of the community that does not want to see or interact with homeless people.

"You can't cut out a piece of society," she said. "They don't want to see them anywhere."

As for reports of drug use, vandalism, and needle litter in the Louden Nelson Center, Rovay said the damage could have been done by anyone, and wondered how the center's staff knew it was from homeless people or drug users. She thinks that requiring members of the public to sign in at the front desk in order to gain access to the restroom code could be a quick and easy fix to the problem, as opposed to going to the trouble and expense of hiring bathroom attendants, which has been proposed by some in the community.

Rovay also thinks that public drug use has been on the increase downtown due to the remote location of the local needle exchange, which is presently operating out of the County Health Center. Rovay thinks there should be syringe services downtown, which would reduce the number of discarded needles.

Sharps disposal kiosks would also help reduce needle litter at the Louden Nelson Center, she said.







Gloria Rovay Occupies the Women's Restroom at the Louden Nelson Center

Rabbi Philip Posner Points to the 'Illegal Activity' Sign on the Men's Restroom Door

Louden Nelson Community Center Rules of Conduct

Literature Displayed by Demonstrators


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