Blogger Stephen Harrison of Needs More Spikes calculated Victoria residents urinate approximately 128,688 litres a day. (Needs More Spikes graph)

World Toilet Day floats some serious health issues

Needs More Spikes blog finds 136 people are currently peeing in Vancouver Island city

Talking about toilets may seem like poor manners, but World Toilet Day seeks to address an important health issue that affects people around the globe.

Nov. 19 brings awareness to the lack of access to safe toilets. Supported by UN Water, World Health Organization and other international non-profits, a 2017 study shows 4.5 billion people live without safe, sanitary toilets. This can lead to contamination of soil and waterways, a safety and health hazard UN Water wants to eliminate by 2030.

But it’s not just developing countries plagued by the need to pee.

READ and WATCH MORE: How accessible are Victoria’s public washrooms?

Stephen Harrison, the blogger behind Needs More Spikes, examines defensive architecture in Victoria.

“There are lots of different things that are supposed to go unseen by most people. I wanted to document how the city has been built to limit use of public space by certain groups of people, in particular, homeless and poor people,” Harrison said. He points to examples of customer-only washroom signs in businesses throughout the city, and city council’s decision last spring to close Reeson and Quadra parks to overnight camping because they did not have washroom facilities (instead of adding facilities, Harrison notes).

On Nov. 8, he posted a blog that finds 136 people are peeing in Victoria right now. Harrison calculated the number by comparing the city’s population with the average amount, time and frequency people urinate in an average day. The stat, he said, was a way to highlight the daily need faced by everyone and inspire a larger discussion.

READ MORE: Mustard Seed rolls in record-breaking toilet paper numbers

“It’s not like washroom options are plentiful,” he said. “They’re scattered around, they’re not always available, some of them are locked. Lots of them lack amenities like soap and mirrors.”

Of the 22 public city-funded washrooms in Victoria, only three — at Langley Street, Centennial Square and Pandora Street — are available around the clock. One of them is a male-only urinal that can’t be accessed with a wheelchair or walker.

Harrison’s post was inspired by a washroom in the Atrium building on Blanshard that, while in a private business, used to be easily accessible with gender-neutral facilities. Then a “customers only” sign appeared, and patrons had to ask for a key from security or staff to use them. Such signs and how they’re enforced can create a barrier, he said, especially to homeless people or those who appear poor.

“Accessibility or amenities or general availability of washrooms are not plentiful, depending on who you are and the city or private businesses are treating you,” Harrison said.

One of the reasons businesses may enforce a customer-only rule, Harrison said, is because of the fear of drug use in their washrooms.

“I totally get that a barista or other staff might not want to respond as defacto-first responders, but for any business operating here, the community they’re serving includes people who use drugs,” he said. “If businesses are troubled by people using drugs in their washrooms, then perhaps they should be fighting the stigma around drug-use and fighting for things like decriminalization. Whereas locking bathroom doors is contributing to stigma…which pushes people away and could do real harm.”

After he wrote his washrooms post, Harrison said a friend pointed out that homeless people often drink fewer fluids when they know they don’t have regular access to toilets. That can create another kind of health issue.

READ MORE: Interest in park growing by the toilet paper roll


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

The male-only urinal on Pandora and Government Street is too narrow to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Just Posted

Former polygamous leader found guilty of removing a child from Canada

James Oler found guilty of removing an underage child from Canada to marry a U.S. man in 2004

Dog owner upset after five puppies stolen from Cranbrook home

Angelo Polh says a litter of puppies were taken from his home while he was away on May 11.

Local martial arts students head to worlds

Three Cranbrook athletes will be competing against the best at the USA World Championships

It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1912

Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Cranbrook Bandits battle it out in Montana

The junior and senior teams were successful south of the border going 2-2 and 3-0 respectively

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

ICBC urging drivers to slow down this May long weekend

Speed is number one cause of car crash fatalities: ICBC

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read