From left: Trinity Western University students Anna Demian

Everybody poops: Lack of public toilets is a social justice issue

Loss of dignity and diminished health is a reality for people living on the streets of 'The Strip' in Surrey

Everyone poops; however, the access to publicly accessible toilets or washrooms is not as universal.

When one is used to always having a washroom reasonably available, the idea of not having anywhere to go, or possibly being denied access, seems absurd. This lack of access, however, is the reality for many people living on the streets – especially on 135A Street in Surrey – “The Strip,” as it is known.

Not having accessible toilets is not just an issue of sanitation, but also one of humanity and dignity. As a student nurse, I have learned that the problems associated with poor sanitation are all too relevant to the health care system. Sanitation is the cornerstone of public health.

In her article, No Toilets for the Homeless (2016), Stacey McKenna, explained that the scarcity of public toilets can “exacerbate health problems such as body lice, skin infections, gastric illness, prostate and bowel issues, as well as the spread of communicable disease.”

The report No Right to Rest (Robinson & Sickels, 2015) underscored that this problem is a public health crisis.

Alongside these health concerns come dignity, self-esteem and the issue of safety associated with open defecation.

My nursing classmates and I recently conducted a survey of the area surrounding “The Strip” and found a scarce number of accessible washrooms, and those that existed had long wait times.

When members of the community, including volunteers and persons living on the street, were asked if access to washrooms was a problem, the answer was always a resounding yes. What few public toilets are available are often only open during the day with limited accessibility for those living on the streets.

Without the basic necessities such as a toilet, showers, or even somewhere to wash up, people living on the streets have many forces working against them. Hygiene, which is an important aspect in health, is pertinent when applying for jobs. The absence of publicly accessible toilets means that persons on the street are stuck in an untenable situation – that of openly defecating rather than soiling one’s limited clothes. This in turn leads to further stigmatization and separation within society.

This embarrassing, unsafe, and penalized act should not be forced upon those whose desperation supersedes their wishes. Never before had the idea crossed our minds of where one goes while living on the streets. However, it became immediately apparent as we spent some time during our clinical placement at NightShift Ministries. Our hope is to bring awareness of this invisible problem to the community.

Exploring the routes other cities have taken to address this problem, such as the Portland Loo and San Francisco’s Lava Mae, will hopefully lead to a solution in Surrey that is agreeable and beneficial to everyone in the community.

Sharing in humanity and contributing positively towards public health are the potential results of this very important issue.

 

Elliott Burns, Anna Demian, Dawson McCann and Deborah Gibson (Faculty)

Trinity Western University

School of Nursing students

 

Just Posted

Surrey tops list of most delayed, congested TransLink bus routes

TransLink says delays are costing $75 million a year

Once shy, Surrey maker of cakes finds confidence to show skills on TV and at big events

Raveena Oberoi of Just Cakes Bakeshop is a guest speaker at Vancouver Fall Home Show this week

Body found after fire at Surrey gas station

Fire crews called to the 8700-block of Harvie Road, in Port Kells

VIDEO: Delta police trauma dog retires after nine ground-breaking years of service

Caber was Canada’s first accredited justice facility dog, paving the way for dogs to support victims country-wide

No injuries reported after ‘T-bone’ collision in South Surrey

Three-vehicle collision occurred at 184 Street and 40 Avenue intersection

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

VIDEO: Depth and scoring lacking for Vancouver Giants this season: Coach

G-Men defeated on home ice Sunday by Victoria – next up Everett on Friday

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Most Read