Colfax - gritty / gross / gorgeous - and also a lot cleaner

"Colfax has always been filthy and always will be"

We will hold off on the ways I love the word “filthy” and how this word, like others originally based in judgement (gross, nasty, etc.), have been reclaimed in my mind. I’ll tell you more about how gritty grimy gorgeous Colfax Avenue is and always will be later. This post is about the environment yall.

[[adjusts tone of voice from gross-loving community member to public health advocate]].

The above statement in August of 2017 regarding the future of Colfax was from someone I met as I was about to head out with 12 friends on a cigarette butt clean up to celebrate my birthday. His comment was in reference to the waste of time I and others were about to embark on as any idea of a clean Colfax was a delusion. I thought that was pretty rude to say to someone celebrating their birthday. We gathered a six gallon bucket of cigarette butts in 90 minutes that night. ;)

Fast forward to only a year later - summer 2018. In June of this year The Colfax Business Improvement District (BID) implemented the Colfax Works Program:

Colfax Works is a project of the Colfax Ave Business Improvement District (BID). The project provides employment opportunities (within the BID’s boundaries) and supportive services to help provide a path to independence and stability for those experiencing homelessness.

Crews work Tuesday-Friday, 7am-1pm and assist with trash/graffiti removal, power washing, and small landscaping projects within the BID’s boundaries (Grant to Josephine, 14th to 16th). Team members receive important supportive services such as case management and life skills resources.

The Colfax Works Program was supplemented by five neighborhood trash clean ups for community members to volunteer their time to the future of Colfax. I’m excited to have partnered with the Colfax BID for this year’s monthly clean ups. I have led neighborhood clean ups on Colfax for 3 years and continue to for two primary reasons. First, it feels good for me to clean up trash. Second, it increases engagement of community members for whom it also feels good. The obvious benefit to the planet is a great perk as well. It works really well for all of us!

While the groups we gathered were small (5-10 volunteers) we covered a lot of ground each month. I am currently reviewing what worked and what didn’t so we can create a larger impact for next summer. If you have ideas about how we can get the word out for larger groups next year, please reach out!

The point of this post - Colfax is already cleaner. Quite visibly within 2 months of Colfax Works beginning. With community volunteer clean ups like the BID’s and those of the Harm Reduction Action Center there is an increased presence of people picking up trash. If people see others pick up trash, they may think to do the same.

Additionally, within the next month the Colfax BID will be installing cigarette disposals onto every trash can within their district. Around the time I hosted the cigarette butt clean up for my 32nd birthday I also met with Frank Locantore, executive director of Colfax BID, to discuss cigarette butts being on Colfax because there wasn’t a safe option for cigarette smokers. Frank was all about the vision and shared the Michelle Valeri, Programs Director, knew of a funding opportunity - The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program via Keep America Beautiful. Once people have somewhere safe to put their cigarette butts, they are less likely to be on the street.

Cut to the chase: They let me write the grant and we got it funded! I also have the honor of a position on the Cigarette Litter Prevention Task Force.

So to circle back to just 14 months ago when I had a hater tell me these efforts were a waste. I’m happy there is evidence to show that to be incorrect. Colfax is just like the rest of the world. Exactly what we make it. Bye hater.