With often restricted private bathrooms in restaurants or cafes, homeless people have very few options but o defecate in public–a dehumanizing and unsanitary situation…
The Pacific Northwest seems to be doing something right. The City of Portland’s Portland Loos started implementing public, flushing toilets with adjacent sinks back in 2008. These toilets are cleaned twice daily and are accessible 24 hours a day, which is rare for many public toilets and a vital necessity.
Public restrooms are sparse in American cities–“as if the need to go to the bathroom does not exist,” travel expert Arthur Frommer once observed. And yet to yield to bladder pressure is to risk arrest.
Nightingale became aware early on that the lack of public bathrooms homeless people can use whenever they need to is an ongoing source of discomfort, humiliation, health problems, and antagonistic feelings and comments about the unhoused from the general public. One of Nightingale’s activists did a study of public bathrooms in downtown in 2012 and discovered that Eugene had only two actually public bathrooms, and these were sometimes closed.
The lack of public toilets inevitably results in feces and urine turning up in places such as alleys, yards, and even the doorways of stores, a problem we have heard and read about a lot in the past years.
Nightingale has asked city officials for more public bathrooms, even pointing out to the Mayor and City Councilors that city ordinances themselves require that customer of the food trucks on Kesey Square must have bathrooms and hand-washing facilities available to them. In response, in 2014, the city did put a few port-a-potties downtown that the public, including the homeless can use.
In Eugene, however, as in many cities, public bathrooms over the past quarter center have become dirty and ugly–adorned with graffiti and strewn with toilet paper used diapers. People without homes sometimes use public bathrooms to bathe, do laundry, or perform other activities that humans prefer to do in private, such as taking drugs or having sex.
Nightingale has urged the city to consider buying a Portland Loo. Solar-powered and made of prison-grade steel, the Portland Loos meet almost all objections to public bathrooms. They are graffiti-proof, with simplified plumbing that is almost impossible to damage. The water faucet is on the outside so people are unlikely to attempt to do laundry or take a bath, and louvered slats at foot and head level make it possible for police to notice quickly if more than one person is in the loo.