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Looking for relief: Edmonton public washroom pilot program ends

A portable washroom set up east of downtown Edmonton.
A portable washroom set up east of downtown Edmonton. Courtesy, City of Edmonton

For the last several months, a pilot program has been underway looking at the viability of portable toilets to offer relief for Edmontonians.

“It took a little bit of time for people to realize that they were there,” said Chantile Shannon, the director of Neighbourhood Services with the City of Edmonton.

Eight locations were set up, mainly around central Edmonton. With the arrival of the cold weather, the porta potties have been removed, highlighting one of the challenges.

“It’s harder to keep washrooms clean in the winter time and not a lot has been designed for the sustained cold that we have here,” Shannon said.

Last spring’s Edmonton Oilers’ playoff run, which saw instances of public urination, prompted the discussion of public washrooms.

READ MORE: Porta potties installed downtown to relieve Edmontonians during Oilers’ playoff run

In April, some porta potties were installed in Michael Phair Park on 104 Street to offer relief. Eventually, the pilot program came together and additional locations were selected.

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“Goodness knows what would have happened if they weren’t there,” said Kayla, an Edmonton resident who acknowledges she is homeless.

“I have seen them out and about and I have used them quite frequently.”

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Setting up the pilot came with some challenges, such as concerns about facilities too close to homes.

In some cases, porta potties had to be locked at certain times of the day and monitoring was increased.

“There were some issues where people were using needles in the washrooms and that makes some unsafe situations for others,” Shannon said.

“There were some issues with encampments.”

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City staff are collecting data from the pilot with a report to be presented to council next year. The next steps will be decided after that.