Sudbury, Ont., man builds portable toilets to help homeless people downtown

A Sudbury man is building portable toilets to help people in the northern Ontario city who are experiencing homelessness. Holland Marshall said there aren’t many public washrooms available in the city’s downtown core that are open to anyone. “From Monday to Friday there are no public washrooms open at all, [for] 12 hours a day,” he said.

“On the weekends, [for] 14 hours, there is nothing for them. So they are going behind trees, they’re going in corners of buildings.” While some public washrooms are available during business hours, Marshall said many people don’t feel welcome using them. Tom Davies Square, for example, has public washrooms on the main floor, but Marshall said a security guard will follow someone into the washroom if they use it.

“Sometimes they don’t feel welcomed in there.” Marshall said the situation is similar at the downtown bus terminal. The main public library branch on MacKenzie Street also has a public washroom that Marshall says is more accessible. But it’s also located further away from some of the harm reduction services downtown. Washrooms at the Centre for Life, near Memorial Park, were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic but reopened on May 21. They are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will close in mid-October.

Other washrooms downtown are in private businesses and are usually reserved for customers. For his portable toilets, Marshall has fitted large plastic buckets with plastic bags and some supplies, including toilet paper and hand sanitizer. He said it costs him around $15 to put together each kit.

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