As a person dealing with homelessness, Mark Aldrich says the lack of public restrooms is a problem. 

"There's not really many places to go to the bathroom out here, said Aldrich.  "It's well needed, because you can only go on so many trees and up against buildings." 

There's currently only one public restroom in downtown Erie, located in the Bicentennial Tower. 

However, the Erie Downtown Partnership is hoping to address the issue. 

The organization is in the beginning stages of a community-led planning process, called Engaged and Energized Public Spaces. 

The plan is looking at three potential anchor sites for public restrooms, including Perry Square and Griswold Park. 

"We understand more than ever, the importance of public spaces," said Erie Downtown Partnership Acting CEO Emily Fetcko.  "We would have a community-led, participatory design process with the community to tell us what kind of infrastructure, what kind of amenities, what kind of programming do they want to see in these spaces, and then work on really building out a concept."

It's a plan many downtown businesses support. 

"We can't build a society only for those wealthy enough to buy diamonds, said Radius CoWork Founder Sean Fedorko.  You have to build a society that respects human beings generally." 

Fedorkos business is located in the Renaissance Center in downtown Erie. 

"Recently, we've even seen and heard of other cases of some of the population even wandering into buildings, coming into offices, kind of asking for money or questions of where they can access support,” said Fedorko.  “That just indicates the level of need." 

Missy Hitz is the owner of Monacella Massage and Kinesiology.  Hitz says additional restrooms will benefit the community as a whole. 

"I've been around to different states and every park I've been to seems to have restrooms, said Hitz.  It's really a need for everybody from families with children, to the unhomed individuals.  It's a public necessity.

Aldrich says he's living proof of the ongoing need for more facilities.
 

"Public bathrooms are well-needed, said Aldrich.  That's the bottom line." 

Fetcko says the Erie Downtown Partnership is still in the early stages of the planning process. 

The overall design and implementation will be based on public input, so as of now, there is no timeline for the project. 

This story is supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.