The City of New Westminster has installed porta-potties in the downtown and uptown neighbourhoods.
Blair Fryer, the city’s manager of communications, said two porta-potties, one that’s wheelchair accessible and one that isn’t, are located at two locations in New West. In the uptown, they’re located on Belmont Street next to the parklet, and in the downtown, they’re located across the street from the Columbia Theatre.
The decision to provide portable washroom facilities comes at a time when many local businesses have closed temporarily because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is to ensure access to bathrooms for vulnerable populations, who may otherwise not have them, given all of the businesses being shuttered and otherwise,” he said. “It’s also for any other citizen who … can’t access somewhere they normally would if they need to use the facilities.”
As part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, the City of New Westminster has established several working groups. One of those groups is working to consider the needs of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
In February, the Peer Network started a petition urging the city to install public washrooms in New Westminster.
The petition states the lack of public restrooms affects people experiencing homelessness because most businesses will not allow non-customers to use their restrooms, and those they can use are only open during certain hours, forcing people experiencing homelessness to use alleys, streets and bushes to relieve themselves. It states that providing porta-potties in certain areas of New Westminster would help keep city streets clean and provide dignity to people living without homes.
“It covers a wide variety of people, not just homeless, not just people with issues,” Rhonda Cummings, chair of the Peer Network, told the Record in February. “Everybody has issues. Going to the bathroom should not be one of them.”