IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Officials in eastern Iowa have decided to spend more than $10,000 on new public benches that don’t have center armrests to allow homeless people to lie down across them.
The Iowa City Council has decided to replace 14 of the 70 benches in a downtown pedestrian mall with seating that doesn’t include center armrests, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
Iowa City Catholic Worker House led the effort against the center armrests, which the shelter said prevents people from lying down across the benches.
“These were big victories. It’s proof again that community organizing works,” said David Goodner, an organizer with the Catholic Worker House. “When people stand up and speak out for what’s right as a community organization with a strategy we can move the needle.”
Nichole Novak, an organizer with Catholic Worker House, said the idea is to make “a public space that is welcoming to all.”
Cady Gerlach, the director of strategic operations and resource management of Shelter House, said the money for the benches could’ve been better spent in other ways to help the homeless, such as providing housing assistance.
“(It’s) a compelling argument for looking at where are we spending our money and how is it benefiting the homeless individuals,” Councilor Susan Mims said.
Novak dismissed the idea that focusing on the bench issue has taken away from efforts to address the larger problem of homelessness.
“I just don’t buy for a second the argument that any attention to benches downtown distracts from the other great work being done to address homelessness in our community,” Novak said.