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

Rink ready, for the Rampage, minor hockey and more

Plenty of maintenance work ensures the Civic Centre’s ice surface is in pristine condition

Prince Rupert Rampage in the community

A focus on giving back makes the team popular both on and off the ice

Prince Rupert’s service providers on a mission to end addiction stigma

Friendship House, Hülsen and other services collaborate on National Addiction Awareness Week

School’s out for hockey

Hometown Hockey made a stop at Prince Rupert Middle School on Friday afternoon

WATCH: Prince Rupert remembers Dec. 6, 1989

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at Montreal’s École Polytechnique

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions visits Prince Rupert for first time

Service challenges tops Minister Judy Darcy’s trip

WEB POLL: Is hockey part of your identity as a Canadian?

Prince Rupert is Hometown Hockey! Is the sport part of your national identity?

The Northern View presents Santa Shops Here in Prince Rupert

More reasons to spend your shopping dollars locally

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read