Homeless advocates brought blankets, pillows to new backless benches in downtown Fargo
FARGO - Kim Seeb and three friends went downtown on Friday to do some decorating.
FARGO – Kim Seeb and three friends went downtown on Friday to do some decorating.
They brought blankets, throw pillows, welcome mats and flower pots, and set them up at four of the new backless benches the city installed earlier in the week to deter loitering.
Seeb, a homeless advocate, said Monday that it wasn't her idea but a friend's.
"The benches are just one more way for downtown to say we don't want you here," Seeb said of her clients. "The thought behind it when she and I talked was simply let's go decorate them, make them welcoming instead of cold hard benches without backs and let people know that they are welcome there. That is their neighborhood."
The four friends work for homeless groups, but decorating the benches was a private protest. Seeb asked that her employer not be named. She said her friend who came up with the idea declined to be interviewed for fear of involving her employer.
The Downtown Community Partnership, which asked the city to install the less-comfortable benches, has said it's not trying to push homeless people out of downtown. The goal is to prevent people from hanging out too long near busy areas and impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic.
All of the benches are on Broadway and located at popular intersections. About two-dozen of the more comfortable backed benches remain throughout the area.
But Seeb said homeless people who saw the benches installed felt right away that they were in the crosshairs. She said she and her friends got a lot of support Friday.
"As we were doing it, people downtown were like, 'Yeah, what is this about? How ridiculous is this?'" she said.
By Saturday, she said, someone had taken all the decor away.
Mayor Tim Mahoney said Monday night that the City Commission has heard from the community about the backless benches and the conversation about them has just begun.