Jan 19, 2023 - News

Phoenix is piloting 24/7 public bathroom to help people experiencing homelessness

A public restroom stall next to a street.

Photo: Courtesy of Portland Loo

Phoenix is piloting a new public bathroom model in hopes of providing people experiencing homelessness with a safe and dignified place to use the restroom.

Why it matters: As homelessness has increased across metro Phoenix, so have complaints about unsanitary conditions in public spaces and concerns about proper hygiene.

  • There are few public restrooms open 24/7 in Phoenix.

Driving the news: Phoenix has provided funding for a single-stall bathroom called a Portland Loo at a new shelter at 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.

  • The specialty stall, which was created in Portland to address issues with homelessness and sanitation, has an anti-graffiti coating, a see-through top and bottom to discourage illegal activity and blue lights to prevent drug users from locating veins.
  • City staff told a council subcommittee earlier this month that they plan to monitor how the first one holds up in the Phoenix heat before making a decision on future stalls.

Show me the money: The Portland Loo, which is now used in dozens of cities in the U.S. and Canada, comes with a steep price tag for a single-stall toilet.

  • It costs almost $150,000 and installation could be an additional $50,000, according to city staff.

The big picture: There are more than 5,000 people in Maricopa County experiencing homelessness outside of a shelter, meaning they are staying on the street or in vehicles, parks, desert washes or alleys.

  • This is according to last year's point-in-time count, and is likely an undercount of the true number of people living on Valley streets.

What's next: Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari told staff she'd like to see the city pilot another loo in a park or somewhere else outside of a shelter area to see how it is used there.

  • Staff told her they are considering installing one at University Park, near Van Buren Street and Grand Avenue, but have not yet identified a funding source.

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