Three years ago while visiting the City of Angels, I went to the KFC at the corner of 7th Street, in L.A.’s downtown. After eating my “finger-lickin” chicken, I asked the manager where the bathroom was, and she said they didn’t have one. I was shocked. I thought that health department regulations required restrooms for customers. But many downtown restaurants in Los Angeles refuse to open their restrooms even to paying customers. So I wrote a one-page opinion piece to the L.A. Times and dropped a copy off at the mayor’s office.
On a visit to Las Vegas, I also observed a total lack of public toilets. In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, there are only two freestanding public toilets, and they both close at sunset.
Providing public toilets is the right thing to do for everyone — not just homeless people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that handwashing is the best way to prevent spread of many diseases, including the horrible gastrointestinal bug Norovirus, which is highly contagious and common among homeless people with no access to toilets. It can also spread in schools and hospitals. I was able to convince my friends at the People for Fairness Coalition, which meets each Tuesday morning in Miriam’s Kitchen in D.C., to take on public toilets as a top issue, and there is now a research and advocacy committee devoted to getting more public toilets in our nation’s capital city. And earlier this year, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced a bill to install at least 10 new public restrooms in D.C. So please join our growing “movement” for better sanitation, the People for Public Toilets Coalition.