Jacob Austin and the other homeless members of our community have little access to public restrooms.

"It's hard to get into a bathroom nowadays,” said Austin. "A lot of businesses don't even let you go in if you're not buying stuff and a lot of times, just to find a restroom to use is a hard thing to do."

As it stands right now, there is only one public restroom in downtown Erie.

It's located at the foot of State Street, in the Bicentennial Tower.

However, it's seasonal and the building is typically locked, so the Erie Downtown Partnership is looking to bring more public restrooms to Erie.

Erie Downtown Partnership Acting CEO Emily Fetcko says the organization is participating in a planning process called Engaged & Energized Public Spaces.

The project involves three new public restroom sites, in Perry Square, Griswold Park, and another location to be determined.

“I do see it as an issue,” said Fetcko. "Mothers, families need public restrooms, especially as an organization that hosts a lot of events, particularly in Perry Square, having public restrooms available is essential."

By adding more restrooms, Fetcko says it will help the organization achieve its goal, of making downtown Erie more safe, fun and welcoming for everyone.

"People need to know that they can care for themselves when they are downtown, especially if they want to get out of their cars and walk and enjoy those spaces and enjoy the small businesses,” said Fetcko. “Restrooms are essential."

This story is supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.