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Public washroom on Whyte Avenue to be staffed by attendant

City will staff Whyte Ave public washroom with attendant
WATCH: As a three-month pilot project, the public washroom on Whyte Avenue is getting an attendant. The city is staffing it after complaints that people didn't feel safe using it. Lisa MacGregor reports.

The public washroom in Old Strathcona will now be staffed by an attendant, in hopes of increasing cleanliness and safety at the facility.

The washroom, which opened in June 2012, is located on the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.

On Monday, the City of Edmonton announced a partnership with Boyle Street Ventures Inc. The three-month pilot program will see an attendant staff the washroom during opening hours. The attendant will serve as a host who also maintains the facility.

“We are always looking for ways to help create a more vibrant and accessible city, and we hope this program will spur street-level activity in the area by providing more options for shoppers, tourists and the general public,” said Nicole Fraser with the City of Edmonton.

“This pilot project also supports our commitment to increasing washroom access for individuals who have higher health needs and increasing dignity for vulnerable Edmontonians.”

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Fraser said the decision to staff the washroom was made after hearing feedback from people that they don’t always feel safe using the facility.

“By having an attendant here whenever the washroom facility is open, it means there’s always eyes on the facility. So any issues associated with cleanliness or safety would be addressed right away. And if there’s something that the attendant can’t manage, they can report it to the city immediately.”

READ MORE: City of Edmonton taking another look at public washrooms

Boyle Street Ventures Inc. will hire and train the attendants. Boyle Street Ventures Inc. offers employment opportunities to people in the city who face barriers gaining employment.

The washroom attendant position has created four new full-time jobs, two part-time jobs and four casual positions, according to Boyle Street Ventures Inc. GM Jodi Phelan.

“In addition to being trained to care for the maintenance of the facility, our attendants will also be trained to recognize unsafe situations and signs of distress in order to provide peer-to-peer counselling or assistance,” Phelan said.

All employees will receive a custodian certificate, as well as receive de-escalation and “conflict to calm” training. They will also be trained to use and carry naloxone, Phelan said.

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“Our main goal here is to deter people from doing illicit activities in the bathrooms. We’re here, we’re going to direct people to get the help they need,” she said. “Most of our employees have a lived experience and so they can share with people, they can talk to them, they can direct them to areas where they may need help and they can get help.”

READ MORE: Whyte Avenue’s public washrooms attract attention across Canada

An attendant will be present in the bathroom anytime it’s open. The hours of operation are:

  • Sunday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
  • Friday/Saturday/stat holidays: 10 a.m. – 3:30 a.m.

The city will fund the pilot program. The city said it will work with Boyle Street Ventures Inc. and the Old Strathcona Business Association to evaluate the pilot. A report of the program’s findings will be presented to the Community and Public Services Committee in June 2020.

“If this is a successful pilot, it will be expanded, most definitely,” Phelan said.

The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton.
The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton. Global News
The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton.
The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton. Global News
The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton.
The public washroom located at the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Edmonton. Global News