Compassionate Trash & Water Service For Encampments

Episode 1: Hydration and Sanitation Stations

Hi, I’m Ali Cornish, Communications Specialist for Majestic Collaborations. I’m here with Matt Kowal and Molly North who are the founders of Majestic Collaborations. They are here now to talk about another division of their company called Majestic Water Works.

Matt and Molly recently gathered with volunteers in downtown Denver at D9 and 10 encampments to provide trash service and sanitation services and we are hoping to learn more about that today.

Click the following Zoom recording to listen and watch to the entire interview. A transcript is provided below.

Ali C. – Can you tell us a little bit about what [trash service and sanitation services] are?

Molly N. – Water Works initially launched in order to provide water for festivals, for people to refill their water bottles or cups. Water Trees can be connected to any public water source and agreed upon private water sources. Water trees have a pretty simple structure, with 4-6 spigots along the length of it to wash hands and refill water bottles.

Ali C. – How is this related to tactical urbanism? I know that’s a concept you both reference often in your work.

Molly N. – The idea of tactical urbanism is that we do short term, low cost installations that allow us to have an iterative process. For example, we took these water stations to people who are living in these homeless encampments in order to bring them a resource for washing their hands and refilling their water containers. Many people weren’t comfortable with leaving their tents even to walk down the block to get to the water towers and so the learning that we did, the biggest lesson learned from us was that we had better success when we filled these big blue buckets, and taking the water directly to people at their tents.

Ali C. – Where did you learn about this method of mass water distribution? Seems like you know a fair amount…

Matt K. – They say you’re an expert at messing up everything possible once. After throwing 120 festivals, we learned a lot about how to do water services. So, the Tour de Fat where we met Ali in Chicago, 5-7 years ago, we were using bicycle advocacy as a reason to get together, and we have composing systems and solar grid and we worked with these water systems as well at that time. We adapted them at the bequest of our friend Eon Tafoya who said, this art of mass gatherings thing you’re doing let’s use it right away at these housing encampments in Denver.

Ali C. – And speaking of that compassionate project at the housing encampments, you met a couple – Sylvia and Ernie I believe – and they told you a little bit about their backstory; how they came to be there. Can you share a bit about that with us right now?

Matt K. – Their story was indicative of what a lot of couples have gone through but also particular in that they were staying away from their home and their children. They came from Arizona and got COVID at the greyhound station. They had no place to wash hands, then they were at the Denver Coliseum and national western complex separated in those homeless services, hard a hard time talking with each other, and we had a chance to hear their story and it shows the circumstance in starving people out or thirsting them out or not providing sanitary services in downtown areas, adn this is part of the way that cities want to manage homelessness. If you’re in a place that they don’t want you, then you’re going to suffer, and then maybe you’ll leave. The problem with that is the disease is spreading there and harm is happening to people and so this is something we felt needed to be addressed.

Ali C. – How can other people get involved in what you’re doing? I feel that many might be inspired by the efforts that you’re undertaking right now.

Matt K. – interested folks can find us easily with google – the art of mass gatherings – majestic collaborations, or majestic water works. Our hosts, performing arts readiness, supported by The Mellon Foundation, Denver Arts & Venues has been hosting a lot of our work for performing arts readiness. If you look at the Arts and Cultural Network for Event Preparedness, not related to this directly but the larger picture there is that event producers have been making accommodations for many people at one time who think that this a good place to put that in action, and long term we’re looking at climate change migration where these sorts of activities could be very useful. We also know that with the moratorium on evictions and the federal stimulus ending, things could change hard and fast, and so we’re looking to learn what we can, share what we can, and be part of that.

Molly N. – if people locally wanted to connect with us, we are happy to share any of the physical resources that we have so that you can be part of this solution, this hard reduction, if you live further afield please get in touch and we’re happy to share any ideas and resources and keep learning in community with everyone else who happens to be practicing compassionate tactical urbanism.

Ali C. – Thank you Matt and Molly for sharing all this knowledge about hydration and sanitation systems, and how these relate to the greater good.

Matt K. – Water is life! We learned a lot about this at Standing Rock where water protectors were using things like this to help, and so we’re carrying it forward. We’re glad to do it. Thanks!