Finding a public restroom during the coronavirus pandemic has become a challenge, especially among homeless New Yorkers.
With some businesses shuttered and others no longer letting customers inside, this is a new reality.
Reuven Blau, a reporter with news outlet The City, spoke with one New Yorker who said, “Human waste is everywhere. It’s not because we are lazy. It’s because people aren’t letting us in.”
About 77 percent of homeless New Yorkers said finding a bathroom has become more difficult during the pandemic, according to Human NYC.
A homeless person told Blau he used to rely on Penn Station. But now, its restrooms shut down at night, are closed regularly for cleaning, and have a capacity of six. He told Blau he’s at times forced to resort to the street or other public spaces.
While the pandemic has exacerbated this challenge, it isn’t new.
“New York City struggled with this issue for decades. A while back, like in the ‘70s, they implemented a program where they charged people actually a small fee. And activists really pushed back strongly against that saying it was unfair, it’s a human right to use the bathroom,” said Blau.
Legislation eventually dictated it would be illegal to charge people in some cases, but no program appropriately took its place.
Other areas across the country and in Canada do have organized plans, “but the city has really been slow,” said Blau.
During the peak of the pandemic, the city put out 12 portable bathrooms, which ended up being vandalized. Setting up these smaller restrooms creates a need for attendants to maintain them, which would require safety measures to be implemented and come at a cost.
The city was forced to take them away and “nothing has happened since,” said Blau.
During the Bloomberg administration, about 20 portable bathrooms were purchased, but only a handful were installed as the city really struggled with places willing to take them.
Blau joined “Mornings On 1” via Skype.