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Out of order

September 6th 2018

Caught short: taken at the last DPercussion, the UK’s third largest free festival set up as a non-political response by Manchester’s music and art scenes to the decimation of the city’s centre by an IRA bomb in 1996. © Lewis,

What to do when you’re living on the street and you need to go?

The titles make a trip to the toilet sound fun – there’s the Bog Blog, the Good Loo Guide and even the Loo of the Year awards ceremony, held every December. But when you’re homeless, access to a clean toilet is tricky.

Ask Google “Is my pee normal?” and you’ll find that most people drinking plenty of water will urinate between six and eight times (or more) over 24 hours. That makes normal urination a huge challenge for homeless people. You’ll soon be recognised at local cafes, and may even be barred from using a McDonald’s, Starbucks or pub’s toilets.

If piss is hard, then what’s it like to poo? Or have a period?

“I wish there was more awareness about being homeless,” said Tom (name changed), collecting change from evening commuters outside a Tesco near Goodge Street, WC1. “People say ‘why don’t you pay for a place?’ I can stay in a hostel, but I’d like enough money for a cheap B&B, just to have a wash and a couple of nights' break from the street. Having a break makes such a difference. And then there’s the toilet. Pubs don’t like you going in, so you’re forced to use the street and that’s bad, and people moan about it too.”

Trying to act with decorum, and find a place that lets you take a wee, means that bladder infections and cystitis are two painful side-effects of street life for rough sleepers.

Human poo is an even bigger deal. Come Christmas there’ll be offers of socks, hot meals, overnight stays and dry sleeping bags but it’s a rare person/office who lets anyone bedding down on the street use their toilet. If more public toilets could be open 24 hours, countless people – homeless or not – would be feeling much more comfortable.


Taking a piss?

If you know your postcode (or have location on your phone) you can find the five nearest toilets to you right now on this fab map from the RCA:
IT’S PANTS: The map doesn’t make clear if the toilet is free or not.

Wetherspoons and Asda have a reputation for having good public toilets. And some organisations are super-friendly about anyone using their public toilets, such as libraries and the Wellcome Collection close to Euston station (which opens at 10am except on Sunday when it’s 11am).
IT’S PANTS: There are still towns which don’t have public toilets.

Sanitary protection is free from some libraries and food banks. More info from the Tricky Period
IT’S PANTS: Tricky Period is only in north London and Norwich.

After a row about exorbitant pee fees, Network Rail plans to abolish all toilet charges at stations from 2019. It’s already free at Victoria, Charing Cross, Canon Street and London Bridge stations.
IT’S PANTS: Some train stations in London charge 50p a visit.

Transport for London has toilets at some tube stations, which anyone can use “responsibly”, see and makes clear if they are behind the ticket barriers, free or if you will be charged 10-50p.
IT’S PANTS: The map is only available online and some of those toilets can only be used if you have a valid ticket. The Pavement asked if we could print the map for our readers, but the charity rate is £350 so we said no, politely.


Sept/Oct 2018



News in brief, September-October 2018

MPs need to say yes

Bad case of the booze

Out of order

Shit and anger

Reader feedback

It's the law

Get me home

Barbed tongues

Should I tell doctors I'm homeless?

This charming man

Lived with it all

Are you homeless or not?

Creating change

Banter: toilet tales


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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484