Decolonizing Spirituality: A Conversation and Practice with Edana Wellness

By: Zora Satchell and Shirley Coenen

We sat down with the founders of Edana Wellness, Victoria Benjamin and Ali Owens where we talked about the intersections between white supremacy, institutionalized european-christianity- and the joy, excitement and difficult work that healing justice offers us.

This is a sneak preview of the more in depth practice, coming up at our Healing Justice Workshop on Saturday, April 13th. Please join us and RSVP!

Victoria Benjamin on the left and Ali Owens on the right. Photo courtesy of Victoria Benjamin.

What do you define as healing justice and why is it important to you?

Victoria Benjamin (VB):  I feel like the overarching theme of healing justice lies in healing from the trauma and pain of systemic oppression. This work takes place on multiple levels.

First, individuals may work to heal their own physical, spiritual, energetic, and emotional bodies in a variety of ways that include contending with their victimization as well as the ways they are complicit in perpetuating the pain and oppression of other people.

Secondly, humans working toward healing justice may choose to help other individuals and communities heal from pain and trauma. I personally believe that this work is crucial in all communities and must be navigated in ways that do not perpetuate systemic oppression.

For example, White people do not need to enter and attempt to “rescue” communities of Color, because it is problematic on multiple levels and there is a great deal of healing work that needs to be done inside of White communities by White people.

I find healing to be a fundamental piece of social justice work. I wholeheartedly believe that we cannot harm others unless we choose to become blind to their humanity. And, on a similar note, we cannot harm others without losing pieces of our own. For me, healing justice offers opportunities to come closer to our own humanity while insisting we acknowledge and celebrate the intrinsic worth that lies in other people. Moreover, it insists we work to stop causing others harm.

Ali Owens (AO): Healing Justice, to me, describes the process of contending with our own passive or active perpetuation of oppression and judgment, AND acknowledging the trauma inherent in that perpetration. Coming to terms with the fact hat we can be both oppressed and oppressors is no easy task, and this process of self-examination requires extensive spiritual and emotional healing. Until we commit to doing the inner work, I believe we cannot be as effective in healing the many injustices that exist in our world today. Just as the health of one cell affects the body as a whole, so too does the spiritual and emotional wellness of the individual affect the collective conscious.

How does this connect to decolonizing spirituality?

AO: Decolonizing spirituality requires white folks to examine our areas of privilege and our societally-informed entitlements to significant spiritual practices of marginalized groups.

By focusing on Euro-Pagan practices, we hope to offer white people in our community a chance to connect with ancient wisdom from our own ancestors and integrating that wisdom into our lives in a way that honors the sacredness and divinity of every human being.

VB: I am a White woman who was raised in the Christian church. Throughout my personal journey, I found Christianity to be extremely patriarchal and rigid in gender, sexuality, and many other social identities. As I began to gravitate toward Paganism, I also felt a great deal of fear because of the negative connotations involved with it, like Satanism and Witchcraft.

Now, I am in no way saying White people should not be Christian or that the church is necessarily bad. Not at all. But, I think that it is important for white women to name the harm that the church – and white men – have caused us.

Throughout history and still today, things like witch hunts, executions, and extreme physical and sexual violence have been enacted on White women and children. What’s more, violence was used to steal our spiritual practices. Even today, we see abuses like sexual assault against children and nuns in the Catholic Church being talked about more and more. There are so many different examples like these in our communities. So, in this way, it becomes necessary to name and deal with our spiritual victimization.

White folks in the U.S. overwhelmingly identify as Christian. It is important to also name and contend with the brutality of our collective history and the harm this has caused other people, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

For example, White colonizers literally used their faith as justification for slaughtering Native Americans and enslaving African people. Rape and other forms of violence against people of Color were – and continue to be – commonplace. Another example of this harm can be found in the GLBTQQA+ community.

I mean, look at the Westboro Church and conversion camps. And, trans women of Color are at higher risk of violence and homicide than other demographics. It becomes clear that a Christian society is still harming people right now.

Remember earlier, when I talked about White people contending with both our victimization and the ways we perpetuate harm against others? Well, spirituality is a prime example of this work for these reasons and so many more.

Edana Wellness, photo from Edana Wellness Instagram.

Many White people do not identify as Christian, though. But, I often see them try to find alternative spirituality through other means, like in the practices of communities of Color. Now, I think White people can practice certain spiritual practices if they do so carefully and respectfully, while others are inappropriate to practice. We will open up dialogue about this at our discussion on April 13th.

The answers White people seek about their own souls and humanity can be found by other means [than cultural appropriation]. Focusing on a European-based practice allows White people to look to their own roots – those that existed before forced religion and colonization – for healing. This can be a way to reclaim what has been stolen from us as well as allow us a way to practice spirituality in ways that are not appropriative – and not harmful – to communities of Color. In this way, we can begin to decolonize our spiritual practices and move more gently in the world – and perhaps even change it.

AO: I, too, am a white woman who was raised in the Christian church, where I internalized misogyny, bigotry, and intolerance. The things I was taught in church caused me significant trauma around my own sexuality, identity, and roles, and the scars have lasted decades. I separated from the church as a teenager, but the burden of shame remains imprinted in my brain to this day.

Overall, the sad truth is that so many atrocities committed today are rooted in white American Christianity. We see it every time we turn on the news. Bigotry. Misogyny. Discrimination. Hate crimes. Doubled-down pressure toward maintaining limiting and harmful gender roles. Ostracizing and criminalizing those in the LGBT community. For those of us who no longer wish to perpetuate these problems, being able to identify with alternative spiritualities has become increasingly important – but equally important is being able to do this without co-opting, trivializing, or disrespecting the spiritual practices of people of color.

How do you connect this with your company Edana Wellness?

VB: Edana Wellness seeks to help others heal from trauma and find empowerment through earth-based spirituality. Specifically, we focus on European-based Pagan philosophy because we both identify as White women and find it important to work within our own community, and because we both embrace Paganism as our spiritual practice. We currently offer workshops to help folks with healing and personal empowerment and, soon, we plan to offer a variety of services and opportunities that align with that vision.

AO: As Victoria said, Edana Wellness seeks to help others heal from trauma and find empowerment through earth-based spirituality; specifically, Euro-Paganism – and we do so through a lens of intersectional feminism.

We believe healing is not complete unless it examines the intricacies of oppression that have been woven into the fabric of our culture. In this way, we aim to address the root of the wound, not just the symptoms.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

City Council Candidate Questionnaire

The ballets have been sent and the local city council elections are coming up on April 2, 2019! Keep scrolling for the FCCAN questionnaire or view the PDF.

The Fort Collins Community Action Network (FCCAN) mission is to create community based on furthering economic, social, and environmental justice, sustainability, human rights, and peace for all by building coalitions, developing strategies and actions, and supporting existing progressive organizations.

Having incredible impacts on Fort Collins community wellbeing, we believe our City Council is extremely important. We care about who is representing our communities’ interests and how. With that in mind, FCCAN has prepared a short survey to give our communities more insight to who may be representing us. FCCAN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and does not endorse any political candidates.

All City Council candidates for 2019 are listed below. Those whose names are listed in bold have their responses reflected after each survey question. Those candidates who were not able or opted out of participating in the survey are listed below in standard font.

  • Mayor
    • Michael Charles Pruznick
    • Wade Troxell
  • Councilmember District 1 (to fill the unexpired term of Bob Overbeck)
    • Susan Gutowsky
    • Glenn E. Haas
    • Joe Somodi
  • Councilmember District 2
    • Adam Eggleston
    • Susan Holmes
    • Noah Hutchison
    • Julie Pignataro
  • Councilmember District 4
    • Kristin Stephens
  • Councilmember District 6
    • Lori Brunswig
    • Emily Gorgol
    • Fred Kirsch

  1. Do you see housing as an indicator of inequality in Fort Collins?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  2. Would you support raising the minimum wage for City employees to $15 per hour?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): No
      1. Minimum wage should be the same for all.  Government employees should not have an unfair income advantage over others.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): No
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  3. Would you support increasing the number of unrelated people who can live in a single dwelling from three to four?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): No
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
      1. I support a repeal of U+2
  4. Do you think City Council has an equal obligation to represent and promote/protect the well-being of all residents of our city, regardless of their immigration status (including international students, other visa holders and persons without immigration status)?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): No
      1. The city function is to protect and promote the general welfare while honoring the rights of all people.  To achieve that goal, the city should take input from as many perspectives as possible, including citizens, residents, and visitors, but specifically committing to represent outsiders, is beyond the scope of city council.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  5. Do you support allowing non-citizen residents of Fort Collins (i.e. Lawful Permanent Residents, visa holders, and persons with no immigration status) to vote in local elections, including City Council elections?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): No
      1. This would violate the law and oath of office.  Pruznick encourages advocates to lobby their state and federal representatives on this topic.  Pruznick welcomes and encourages non-citizens to be part of the various public input processes, but not voting.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): No
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): No
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
      1. I would like to do more research on #5 before completely committing to my yes answer.
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  6. In 2017, the Community Trust Ordinance was presented to City Council, barring city employees from inquiring about legal status in an effort to encourage all residents of the city to seek services (including assistance from the police) without fear of repercussions or differential treatment based on immigration status. Did/do you support this measure?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
      1. I would like this resolution to go much further than it did at the time.
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
      1. I support the idea of a CTO. I need to talk with stakeholders to know how well it is working.
  7. Do you feel local government and local law enforcement should play a role in immigration policy enforcement?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): No
      1. Since 2014, murders are up 150%, rapes are up 48%, and overall crime is outpacing growth 2:1.  The city lost 19 officers in 2018 due to attrition since the city refused to include a continuation clause in the current contract.  Our federal taxes pay for immigration enforcement, let the federal government do its job. The city needs to focus on reducing murders and rapes.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): No
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): No
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): No
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): No
  8. Do you believe City Council has a duty to boldly decry acts of discrimination and hate in our community by issuing a timely, public statement, and creating a concrete evaluation and response plan to ensure such acts do not continue?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
      1. Pruznick has been such an advocate.  June 24th, 2014, Pruznick watched in shock as then council member Troxell ignored the staff report on the “frequent if not weekly rape of women in our natural areas and parks,” and a few months later, supported the City Manager terminating the whistleblower.  Since then, rapes are up 48%, outpacing growth eight fold. Pruznick is committed to holding both those who commit acts of hate and those who enable and support acts of hate accountable. Rape is a violent hate crime against women. As long as leaders who put image before rights are protected and promoted, we will never solve our human rights problems.  Pruznick is committed to making human and environmental rights the city priority.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  9. The Climate Action Plan Framework adopted by City Council in 2015 includes the following community greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals: 20% by 2020, 80% by 2030, and 100% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.  Do you support these goals?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
      1. Pruznick is converting his home to be fossil fuel free.  Pruznick believes we can do better for less and is willing to lead by example.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
      1. I do support Fort Collins Climate Action Plan, I am cautious to overly burden our citizens with all the expenses associated with the plan. I think if we force people out of Fort Collins due to affordability we made actually hurt the goal rather than help it. By having more people commute in/out of the city we will increase the level of carbon output. Also, unfortunately when we lose tax dollar generated by folks living here the first programs that are reduced are normally social and environmental based.
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
      1. I think we need to move much, much faster and will commit to solutions as they present themselves that will allow that opportunity.
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  10. Each year, City staff provides a “Community Carbon Inventory” report that tracks progress toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.  If the report for 2018, scheduled for release this summer, suggests that we are not on track to achieve our 2020 climate goal, would you support a mid-cycle budget offer or offers designed to help us meet that target?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): No
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  11. Over the next two years, City staff will develop a detailed plan for meeting the 2030 climate goal.  Are you prepared to support implementing the policies and making the investments that will be needed to achieve that goal?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  12. Do you believe that the City should actively advocate for climate action — and against climate damage such as greenhouse gas emissions from fracking — in the broader policy arena, such as to County and State policy makers?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  13. Do you agree with those in our community who say there is a lack of accessibility to public transportation?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  14. Regardless if you agree, do you feel these concerns are important to address?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  15. Is it your priority to involve Fort Collins residents in decision making processes who might normally be excluded (i.e. working class, undocumented, disabled, Queer, trans, people of color, Indigenous, women, and people of intersecting marginalized positionalities)?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): Yes
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): Yes
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  16. Do you support Citizen-Initiated Charter Amendment #1, which would offer Fort Collins City council members full-time pay for full time work?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): No
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): No
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): No
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): No
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  17. Would you support a future initiative to establish a ranked choice voting system for municipal elections?
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor): Yes
      1. Our nation and our community have become divided along political lines.  The current system favors the extremes who represent the party first, as evidenced by the longest government shutdown in history.  Ranked voting favors solution-focused moderates who will do a better job working together through compromise. Pruznick was a member of the Fort Collins Centrist group.
    2. Joe Somodi (District 1): Yes
    3. Susan Gutowsky (District 1): No
    4. Adam Eggleston (District 2): Yes
    5. Julie Pignataro (District 2): Yes
    6. Kristin Stevens (District 4): No
    7. Fred Kirsch (District 6): Yes
  18. Please provide any additional comments:
    1. Michael Charles Pruznick (Mayor)
      1. In his role on the Larimer County Red Feather Lakes Board and the Fort Collins Loveland Water District Board, Pruznick has found solutions that have brought the extremes together.  Pruznick is committed to working together, as evidenced by his Wed, 7 Nov 2018, “120% Rule Compromise,” email to City Leaders, his Thu, 25 Oct 2018, “Chamber and FCSG Should Work Together,” email, and his NISP letter to the editor, linked below. http://vote.pruz.org/2018-10-15.chamber-fscg-work-together.txt http://vote.p ruz.org/2018-11-07.120-percent-compromise.txt http://vote.pruz.org/2017-02-08.co-lte.nisp.pdf
    2. Noah Hutchison (District 2)
      1. My name is Noah Hutchison and I am running for District 2 City Council. I believe not only do I have what it takes to represent District 2 well, but I believe I will do it with passion and innovation. I am committed to working with as many people in this community as I can to resolve issues, to work on projects that benefit the city, and to ensure smart growth for years to come. I am committed to building strong communities that appreciate an elevated quality of life. I want to bring a balanced approach that work towards the most people possible having access to it. I am entering this race acknowledging the reality of the number of issues there are to tackle in the coming four years that affect many individuals in our city. I am committed to our economic development, to people, to our environment, to sustainability, to human rights and to peace. I am open to discussion on real solutions that can help the most individuals in Fort Collins experience involvement in this great city, its plan, its businesses, and its future. I am a supporter of the City Plan as I believe it will make headway over the next 20 years on a number of these issues you are concerned about including housing access, affordability, jobs, transportation, and more.

*Please note I have answered this questionnaire with a statement because I feel my positions and decision making philosophy can be better represented than it would with yes/no question answers.

  1. Kristin Stevens (District 4)
    1. Over the past four years, I have supported our Climate Action goals, voted to fund Sunday bus service, voted for lockers for those experiencing homelessness, and reached out to many residents including those who might normally be excluded. I am open to talking about many of the issues listed above even if I don’t believe I support them. I am looking forward to working on equity issues, affordable housing, and transportation issues in the next 4 years.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Public Drinking Fountains and Bathrooms: A HUMAN RIGHT

This article was originally published in the Journal for Colorado Water Institute.

By: Cheryl Distaso and Sarah King

The Fort Collins Community Action Network (FCCAN), a social justice organization, has been involved in local water justice issues for over ten years. Our interest was first piqued in 2002 at the New West Fest (NWF) music festival. In the vendor information packet that year, the Downtown Business Association (DBA) included language prohibiting nonprofits from giving away free water because it undermined the efforts of their festival sponsor, Pepsi, who was to be the main provider of all beverages. The Rocky Mountain Bullhorn, a local alternative newspaper, rented a booth at the NWF that year and chose to give away water. Technically, because they were not a nonprofit, they were not breaking any rules. And in the true fashion of the Bullhorn, they invited people via a megaphone to come and get their “contraband water” for free. The label of the bottles they distributed included the quote from the DBA’s vendor agreement. The Rocky Mountain Bullhorn exposed the absurdity of business entities’ attempt to control what should be a free and accessible resource.

Several years later, in June of 2008, while tabling at an event in Civic Center Park, we noticed that there were no drinking fountains in the park. Event organizers were selling bottler water for profit. On that hot summer day, many people were forced to purchase water (bottled by large corporations in plastic), something we believe should be freely available, not a commodity.

FCCAN followed with a successful campaign to urge the Fort Collins Parks Department to install a drinking fountain at Civic Center Park. However, this fountain, like all of the others in the city at the time, had to be blown out and turned off in the wintertime.

In 2010, FCCAN revisited New West Fest, where the only free water was a drinking station privately set up at the Mennonite Fellowship. As part of an educational campaign about corporate control of water, FCCAN engaged local volunteers to approach downtown business owners prior to the festival. The students asked the business owners if they would allow people to fill up water bottles in their businesses during the NWF. We compiled and distributed maps indicating which businesses would allow people to fill up water bottles for free during the festival. The temperatures can fluctuate pretty significantly at the end of August, and this was a particularly hot weekend. Our little campaign consisted of ten volunteers
walking around for four hours during the NWF, providing information about where to obtain free water. We were very much
appreciated, but our efforts did not put a dent in the water
needs of the tens of thousands of attendees. People did not have adequate access to water that day.


Perhaps it was no coincidence that 2010 was the year of the
NWF riot, in which 400 people took to the streets without any
ascertainable provocation and threw bottles and broke windows
at businesses, resulting in 13 injured and hospitalized. Alcohol is
attributed to be a significant factor in that riot, and one has to
wonder if the reason so much alcohol was consumed at the
NWF that day was that it did cost significantly less to buy beer
than it did to buy water throughout the sweltering day.

The next year, two changes were made to the NWF. First, the NWF was
scheduled one week earlier so as not to coincide with the start
of CSU’s fall semester and the return of students to Fort Collins.
This was presumably done to decrease the number of students
drinking alcohol. Secondly, free water stations were set up at
multiple sites around the festival.

Several years later, in 2015, Old Town Square underwent
a $3.9 million remodel. The upgrades included a vernal pool
that attracts lots of attention in the summertime; it is a fun and
attractive feature for families, children, and dogs to splash in the water. But we noticed that the drinking fountain was not reinstalled in Old Town Square.

FCCAN intern Sarah King asked Matt Robenault, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, why
this was the case. Robenault responded in an email by saying:
…the drinking fountain did not meet current health and safety
codes relative to its plumbing, and it was a seasonal feature that
required shut down for a better part of the year to avoid freezing
pipes. There are sinks in the OTS [Old Town Square] public
restroom where water bottles can be filled during the hours of
operation of 8:30 am until 10:00 pm daily.”

Yet, several blocks away, at FoCo Café, a nonprofit-paywhat-you-can eatery, an intern named Kelly Connor spearheaded the effort to fund an outside hydration station accessible 365 days a year. It took over a year, but the ribbon was cut August 1, 2017. Unlike every other drinking fountain in the city of Fort Collins that existed at the time, the hydration station at FoCo Cafe is designed such that it does not need to be blown out and shut down in the winter.


Why couldn’t a similar hydration station be installed in Old
Town Square? Robenault’s reply:


“It comes down to our inability to ensure a feature that will
remain sanitary during the different phases of the day that
attract patrons to OTS.The intensive use of OTS, which spans roughly 18 hours per day, is often frequented by patrons that do not adhere to societal norms for the deposit of bodily fluids, thus making it difficult to provide a drinking water feature that can be maintained in a safe, sanitary condition. Blood, vomit, and urine all find their way into the late night situations in OTS, which makes the management of the space very different than the management of a city park, rec center or even the private space at FoCo Cafe.We will not knowingly create a situation that repeats the
same unsafe health condition again that we had previously with
the former drinking fountain in OTS.”

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition (FCHC), an affiliate of FCCAN, then contacted the Fort Collins Parks Department to inquire about the possibility of installing a FoCo Café style hydration station in Oak Street Plaza. The plaza is designated a park rather than a downtown property, so the Downtown Development Authority does not have jurisdiction over the area. The FCHC met with Mike Calhoon, Director of the Fort Collins Parks Department, to discuss the prospect of getting such a hydration station installed. Calhoon went to work to research the details necessary to install a hydration station. In May 2018, the Fort Collins Parks Department installed a year-round hydration station downtown in Oak Street Plaza. It includes a water bottle refill station, and continual access to clean and free drinking water. There were no barriers thrown up from the Parks Department; instead they jumped right into the project. The FCHC celebrated with “The People’s Ribbon Cutting (pictured below).

In addition to access to clean water, access to public bathrooms is a significant issue in Old Town as well as in the rest of Fort Collins. The only 24/7 public bathroom in Old Town is located at the parking lot on Remington at the Oak Street Parking lot. This bathroom was closed every night before the FCHC lobbied for overnight access.

There is another public bathroom in Old Town Square (the one in which Robenault invited us to fill up our water bottles), but it closes at 10:00pm.The other public bathrooms in the downtown area include the North Transit Center, Aztlan Northside Community Center, and City Hall. Yet, they are only accessible when the buildings are open. On the perimeter of Old Town, the Gustov Swanson Natural Area (between Catholic Charities and the Fort Collins Rescue Mission) has a bathroom.

This facility was closed for over two years. Through persistent lobbying from the FCHC it reopened in June of 2016. Yet the bathroom is closed from dusk to dawn, and in the winter months, that is most of the time. The FCHC is working to extend those hours. We are also lobbying City Council to open a 24/7 public restroom at the Horsetooth MAX bus stop.

Access to water and sanitation is an essential human right. This right is enshrined in the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, emphasizing access to water and sanitation in developing countries. However, access to water and sanitation is an issue in our own backyard.

Fort Collins has the resources to build more restrooms and year-round water fountains, yet we are still in a continuous battle to access these resources. Not having access to 24/7 restrooms is not only a human rights issue, but also a medical issue. According to the CDC, there have been several outbreaks of hepatitis A among the homeless populations of several U.S. cities that have been directly correlated to a lack of access to 24-hour restroom access .


When people lack access to wash their hands, disease will spread. Using the restroom is something that all humans need and limiting access to clean water and 24/7 bathrooms does not change that fact. Rather, it creates issues of inequity and public health for communities. We, as a community, need to come together to fight against the blockades bordering our human rights for water and access to restrooms.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Connecting the dots- earth, food and healing justice

By: Zora Satchell, FCCAN Intern

Saturday March 9th Full Schedule:

3:45pm Arrive at the farm

4-5pm Yoga & Meditation Practice led by Shirley Coenen

5-6pm Interactive dialogue, yummy food/ drink and tour of the gardens

March’s healing justice workshop will include a dialogue facilitated by local activists and farmers on food justice. Food insecurity is a problem that plagues our community. Led by long-time FCCAN activists and food growers, this talk is meant to get us thinking about how we can reconnect to food as a community.

Eating food is an ultimate act of communion with our Mother Earth. Growing one’s own food can be a sacred act that strengthens that connection. Growing your produce own also reduces your carbon and water footprints by not supporting food production systems that are both many miles away and (often) utilize non-sustainable practices.
Drew and BT will share techniques (and a bit of their philosophy) about gardening in this area. Together they have decades of experience as Front Range gardeners. Using a planting calendar as a starting point, they will share ideas about starting your own plants, planning and planting your garden, container gardening, irrigation, composting.

This will be an interactive dialogue, where you will get a chance to break out into groups and meet other interested folks in the community who want to work at the intersection of social justice, healing justice and gardening!

A good portion of the session will also be dedicated to question and answer, letting the participants direct the course of the conversations. Participants will be offered a tour of their gorgeous and expansive gardening operation at the Historic Cherry Mill Farm and will be invited to partake of some delicious food made mainly with their farm-raised produce, eggs, and meat.

Throughout the month of April and May all participants will have the opportunity to apply what they learn with smaller hands-on food and gardening workshops at the farm, sign-up sheets and information will be at our March workshop!

The event is hosted at BT and Drew’s farm on 200 Gregory Road, Fort Collins. Please arrive at least 10 minutes before 4pm for parking, and to participate in the meditation and yoga practice beforehand. If you plan to participate in the yoga session, please bring your own mat! A $15 suggested donation goes directly to support this work!

PS-There is also a labyrinth on the farm (no joke), so arrive early to explore if you’re interested.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

City, State Programs Available to Help Lower Utility Bills

By: Kevin Cross

Last October, the City of Fort Collins put a new program in place designed to reduce the utility bills of low-income households.  This initiative – the Income Qualified Assistance Program (IQAP) – comes at a particularly good time, given the skyrocketing cost of housing in Northern Colorado and the failure of wages to keep up with that and other costs of living.

The City estimates that the IQAP can reduce the average bill for electric, water, and wastewater services by $32 per month, or $387 per year.  The program is available to households earning up to 165% of the Federal Poverty Level – about $27,000 per year for a couple, or $41,000 per year for a family of four.

Together with the State of Colorado’s “Low-Income Energy Assistance Program” (LEAP) and previously existing Fort Collins Utilities programs, the average utility bill can be lowered by a very significant $87 per month, or $1,044 per year.  This represents annual savings of nearly half of the average total.

An added benefit of these programs is that they include assistance from the City and the State to lower energy use, not just energy costs.  Therefore, they will help our community reduce its impact on the environment and achieve its Climate Action Plan goals, along with making life more affordable for relatively low-income residents.

The only problem with the IQAP and LEAP is that qualified people are not automatically enrolled – they must apply for the benefits by April 30th.  After that, applications won’t be accepted again until November 1st.  If you believe you might qualify, visit this webpage to learn more and to apply for LEAP and the IQAP: https://www.fcgov.com/utilities/iqap.  If you do qualify, you’ll be glad you made the effort!

Kevin Cross is the convener of the Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG, http://fcsg.fccan.org), which is an affiliate of the Fort Collins Community Action Network.  The FCSG successfully advocated for passage of the IQAP in the spring of 2018, based on its social and environmental benefits.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment