The United Nations on the right to pee safely

From the United Nations “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation,” 8/2/2011

“In some cities, homelessness is being increasingly criminalized. Criminalization includes fines, arrests and severance of social protection benefits or even access to employment.

“Local statutes prohibiting public urination and defecation – which can constitute a sexual offence in some cases – while facially constitutional to protect public health, are often discriminatory in their effects. Such discrimination often occurs because such statutes are enforced against homeless individuals who often have no access to public restrooms and are given no alternatives.

Furthermore, there is an increasing trend in local governments to limit opening hours or close entirely public restrooms.


“…The independent expert visited a community of homeless people in Sacramento, California, where she met a man who called himself the “sanitation technician” for the community.

“He engineered a sanitation system that consists of a seat with a two-layered plastic bag underneath. Every week Tim collects the bags full of human waste, which vary in weight between 130 to 230 pounds, and hauls them on his bicycle a few miles to a local public restroom.

“Once a toilet becomes available, he empties the content of the bags; packs the plastic bags with leftover residue inside a third plastic bag; ties it securely and disposes of them in the garbage; then sanitizes his hands with water and lemon. He said that even though this job is difficult, he does it for the community, especially the women.


“The fact that private citizens are compelled to provide such services is an indication of failure by the State to meet its responsibilities to ensure the provision of the most fundamental of services.

…[The UN expert advised, among many other points, that the United States] “Ensure that all municipalities provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation to homeless people, including through ensuring the opening and regular maintenance and upkeep of public restrooms, as well as availability of public water fountains, including during the night.”


(posted by Leigh)


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