When you’ve gotta go, where do you go?
What about if you’re homeless? Now where do you “go”?
What about if you’re homeless and a worldwide pandemic has taken away any slim chance of using public washrooms?
It’s a question few people would even consider, unless they’ve been caught between rest areas on the highway, or can’t find a store with public toilets available.
For those who can’t go down the hall and into one of their 2.5 bathrooms or ensuites, it’s a huge consideration with few solutions these days. It’s also a matter of personal dignity—and everyone deserves their dignity, no matter their circumstances.
I’ve received phone calls from people fed up with the mess humans have left in alleyways near their homes or behind businesses. I’ve heard claims of how people with no place to go have been treated in those alleys and even when they go into a place asking to use public restrooms.
I guarantee you, no one willingly wants to use alleys as their toilets; but sometimes it happens.
The City of Port Alberni made a shower facility available at Echo Fieldhouse for people without a home to at least get clean. Access to the shower, however, is challenging. One has to get in touch with an outreach worker through the Canadian Mental Health Association and arrange to meet them at the fieldhouse. The shower can accommodate one person at a time.
Until recently, most city facilities have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some parks now have washroom facilities available during limited hours.
When the Bread of Life was forced to close in March, many people who live in the street lost their place to sit down and share a meal, get warm and use a toilet without getting hassled. The Bread of Life society and Salvation Army are busy trying to re-open the Bread of Life as a warming centre, hopefully by the beginning of December.
Of course, the ideal endgame would be to have housing for everyone. We all know that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The next best thing is to make sure those in our community without a home at least have a place to “go” where they can hang onto their dignity.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor