Potties for the People
There are many facets to the homelessness problem, including housing, mental health and addiction services, jobs, and living wages, but one of the urgent issues facing anyone living on the streets is finding a place to go to the bathroom.
Urinating and defecating are just basic human functions, and if there are no public toilets, guess what? Those people will still need to urinate and defecate, and it’s likely they will do so in a park or on the street.
We have been meeting with the city officials and the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) to try to find a solution to this urgent need, especially on the East side where there are very few public restrooms. From what we can tell, the city has drawn up various plans, investigated several options, and has not moved forward with any of them. In the meantime, people will go on being human and producing waste. They won’t be holding it in until the city bureaucrats decide to act.
Some of the board members of the CEIC have expressed interest in helping to fund a solution for public restrooms. And yet there seems to be a lack of coordination with the people in the city who are charged with finding such solutions. In the meantime, here are two modest proposals for what people in Portland can do without the permission of the city hall bureaucrats.
POTTIES FOR THE PEOPLE 1) Starbucks has a policy of allowing anyone to use their restrooms (even those who are not customers). If Starbucks can do it, surely progressive Portland businesses can similarly open their restrooms to the homeless. I know that I don't have any problems walking into local businesses and using their restrooms, but my guess is that homeless folks are not treated similarly. Perhaps many businesses do welcome the homeless. It would be great if they could be publicly recognized for their generosity.
PORT-O-POTTIES FOR ALL
2) Since the city is awash in construction sites and remodeling projects, why don't owners leave their port-o-potties unlocked and put a sign on them saying "Everyone is Welcome." I understand that doing so comes with some risk that the port-o-potties will be misused, but not providing public restrooms guarantees that our neighborhoods will be filled with human waste.
The public restroom problem is not unique to Portland. And opinion piece from Tom Cartwright in San Diego that suggests businesses open their restrooms to everyone.