Portland Loos have been installed in downtown areas of several B.C. municipalities. (PHOTO COURTESY PORTLAND LOO)

Portland Loos have been installed in downtown areas of several B.C. municipalities. (PHOTO COURTESY PORTLAND LOO)

Groups call on city of Port Alberni to answer public washroom need

Lack of public washrooms ‘dehumanizing,’ Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council says

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council has joined two community social agencies urging the City of Port Alberni to provide public washrooms accessible around the clock in locations along Third and Fourth Avenues.

“We understand that having access to washrooms is a fundamental human right,” wrote NTC President Judith Sayers and vice-president Mariah Charleson in a letter to council. “Marginalized and homeless populations continue to feel dehumanized when seeking this basic necessity in the community.”

The local Canadian Mental Health Association chapter and the Port Alberni Community Action Team (CAT) have asked for the same. CAT proposes a washroom on Third Avenue between Athol and Angus streets, possibly located in the new public safety building tender. A second suggested location would be near the overdose prevention site at Third and Bute.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni OKs plans for public safety building uptown

“The measure of us as a community is how we treat our weakest members,” wrote CAT co-chair Ron Merk.

Mayor Sharie Minions said she has viewed options in other communities, including 24/7 public washrooms known as Portland Loos. A number of B.C. municipalities have installed the unitary public toilets designed by the city of Portland, Ore., 15 years ago. The facilities come with a hefty price-tag, though. Campbell River spent $200,000 installing one three years ago, while one installed in a Vancouver park cost $650,000.

Councillor Dan Washington said the community could not afford costly public washrooms but suggested the city approach potential partners to “keep the ball rolling.”

Minions thinks there are separate issues involved at both locations with a greater need for a public washroom in the Fourth Avenue area. The city would require a partner to provide the necessary oversight for that, she suggested, “to make sure it’s being managed in a way so that it that doesn’t cause more harm.”

The public safety building will help support the need, but its washrooms will be open only during office hours. The Bread of Life provides a washroom 24/7 in the Uptown area. As well, the Ministry of Housing is offering public washrooms to municipalities free of charge, Minions said.

“We’ve heard from some of our Uptown businesses that there is definitely a need,” Minions said.

Port Alberni

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