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Vernon social service building appeals for help with toilet troubles

Vernon social service building wants porta-potties replaced
Watch: It's the tale of two toilets in downtown Vernon where the city has replaced some porta-potties with a permanent public washroom and not everyone's happy about it.

A building in downtown Vernon that houses more than a dozen society service agencies is appealing to the city to replace the porta-potties that were removed from behind the building.

The People Place building’s general manager Elaine Collison said since the city removed the temporary toilets around two weeks ago staff at the People Place are once again getting a steady stream of requests to use building’s washrooms.

Collison explained that letting the public use the washroom brings a host of other challenges.

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“We’ve had a couple (people) that have gone down in the washroom and we’ve had to get some help in there. We actually haven’t had an overdose in the washroom, but there is a lot of paraphernalia left in there, not every time, but quite often,” Collison said.

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“A couple of times, for whatever reason, somebody is having a mental health issue and they are screaming and they just aren’t coming out of the washroom.”

She noted that staff has tried to set rules like asking people not to take bags into the washroom, checking on people after five minutes to make sure they are okay and telling people who abuse their washroom privileges they can’t use the space.

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However, administering the washroom has become a burden for the building which is nearby to a park popular with some of the city’s street entrenched population.

The porta-potties were removed after the city installed a new purpose-built public toilet several blocks north on 30 Avenue.

However, Collison said it appears those spending time in the area of the People Place are not willing to walk to the new toilet.

Vernon’s new public toilet facility helps fulfill one of the recommendations of a 2018 task force on improving safety in Vernon’s downtown.

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It recommended the city install facilities with safety features to cut down on human waste in public places.

Vernon’s mayor talked up the new facility noting it is locally made and will be more cost-effective in the long run that porta-potties.

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However, Mayor Victor Cumming said the city had also heard the People Place’s concerns and will be looking at putting a porta-potty back in that area.

In the long term, the city is looking at expanding the number of purpose-built public toilets. However, the next location will likely not be near the People Place but next to Vernon’s main bus loop.

The issue will be up for discussion at Vernon city council on Tuesday.