With libraries, public parks, and other municipal facilities shutting their bathroom because of COVID-19 many retail stores doing the same.

The Urban Bathroom Shortage Worsens

The Urban Bathroom Shortage Worsens



With libraries, public parks, and other municipal facilities shutting their restrooms because of COVID-19 — and many retail stores doing the same — there’s increasingly no place to “go” for people walking about town.

Why it matters: As inconvenient as the toilet shortage maybe for the average person, it’s much, much worse for homeless people, not to mention delivery workers, mail carriers, and taxi and ride-hail drivers.

Where it stands: The situation was bad enough before the pandemic, but now it’s so dire that people are calling on municipal leaders to reopen closed toilets and add port-a-potties.

The same is true in other cities. “We’re probably down thousands of restrooms,” Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, told Stateline, the news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

  • Some homeless people in Seattle “have resorted to wearing adult diapers or using 5-gallon buckets filled with kitty litter,” Eisinger told Stateline.

By the numbers: According to Curbed, New York City has 1,100 public restrooms for 8.5 million people.

Yes, but: We’re talking about small indoor spaces where flushing creates “toilet plumes” that can spread the virus.

  • Operating public lavatories can be done safely, says the American Restroom Association, which issued a set of recommendations for coronavirus conditions.

The bottom line:
The problem is bigger than COVID. “The lack of government-operated or sponsored public toilets in urban areas and their replacement with toilets controlled by private business creates opportunities to discriminate,” writes Taunya Lovell Banks, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Frances King Cary School of Law.

Discrimination takes place “against people seeking access to those toilets based on occupation, socioeconomic status, gender-identification, race, and even medical condition.”





Source: Axios By Jennifer A. Kingson


  1. Annmarie

    Public restrooms are essential for a functioning society. These closings and restrictions have an overwhelming impact on the homeless community and workers who do not work a stationary job (postal workers, delivery workers, even EMS workers). To suggest anything less than public restrooms being open or adding porta poties around the city, is inhumane.

  2. Misty Levene

    Check out “SitOrSquat: Restroom Finder”

    Clean public bathrooms can be hard to find, until now. We put public bathrooms on the map, Literally. So the next time you’ve got to go on the go, you’ll know where to go. And once you’ve experienced a bathroom, you can add and share your experience and honest opinion to help others while on the go.

    SitOrSquat mobile app helps you search for clean public bathrooms wherever you go. Add new locations and spread the word about bathrooms you would SIT or ask for improvements for those that are SQUAT’s by adding them on the map.


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