Phoenix City Council approves pilot program to test restrooms for homeless
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Phoenix City Council approved a new pilot program that will bring the Portland Loo to the Valley. This type of restroom is used in dozens of cities between the United States and Canada. Phoenix plans to build one singular unit at the new homeless shelter that’s being built at 22nd Avenue, a few blocks north of Lower Buckeye Road.
The Portland Loo is a public toilet designed in Portland, Oregon. The steel structure provides free access to a bathroom. However, the cost for one can be up to $150,000. In this case, it will be paid for by tax dollars. Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari says she did a lot of research on the restrooms, and other similar options cost much more. “It’s a pretty basic thing public bathroom access,” she said. “I think we need to do everything we can to make that more accessible.”
Another aspect Ansari appreciates is the low maintenance required to take care of a Portland Loo. According to Ansari, some public restrooms right now are damaged, and it costs money to repair them. The bathrooms also shut down when repairs are made.
The vice mayor says the Portland Loo is graffiti-proof, has lights that make it difficult to do drugs, and has openings at the top so police can see inside if needed. “Let’s try something innovative, try something designed and used in major cities. I’ve researched it quite a bit and other cities have benefitted from it,” said Ansari.
Rachel Milne, Director of the Office of Homeless Solutions for the City of Phoenix, says their goal is to get unsheltered homeless people into a safe space. If they cannot do that, Milne wants to make sure they have resources like a bathroom to use. Milne says the cost is worth it to test these toilets out.
She adds the test will start once it’s built during the summer, but wonders how it will hold up in the summer. “We’ll definitely be the hottest place, and that’s probably my biggest concern,” she said. “Can it stand up to 120-degree heat in Phoenix, Arizona?”
The city is focusing on a downtown area north and east of Interstate 10 and south and west of Interstate 17. It would also include chilled drinking water. The shelter and the bathroom are expected to be completed this summer. Then, if the program works well, the city could look into adding more around the city for anyone to use.
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