The creators of Winnipeg’s seasonal pop-up toilet have received international recognition, but their focus remains on expanding the number of accessible washrooms available at home.
The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ was awarded a Pinnacle Award at last week’s International Downtown Association conference in recognition of the innovative project that recognizes access to washrooms is a basic human right.
The BIZ, BridgmanCollaborative Architecture and Siloam Mission launched a two-stall accessible washroom facility made from a renovated shipping container in 2018.
The free facility was moved to different locations downtown, including the corner of Main Street and Henry Avenue, steps from facilities for at-risk Winnipeggers, including Salvation Army, Thunderbird House and the Main Street Project.
"We’re not only looking for washroom facilities for homeless in our downtown, which is necessary, but we’re also hoping to just bring people downtown because it makes our downtown safer, it makes it more vibrant and it helps make downtown businesses money," Melanie Andrushko, manager of placemaking and transportation at the BIZ, said during a community services committee meeting Friday.
The toilet works only during summer months and has been removed ahead of winter.
Alongside pop-up toilet architect Wins Bridgman, Andrushko asked the committee’s councillors to consider reviving a decade-old public washroom strategy and identify ways to make operating public restrooms financially feasible.
The Places to Go strategy was drafted in 2010, under the leadership of former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz. The report states the strategy was never finalized and forwarded to city council for the go-ahead.
The duo spoke about the success of the pop-up toilet as proof the public is in favour of investing in free and accessible washrooms downtown.
The facilities, Bridgman said, were used at least 40 times a day during the summer pilot in 2018.
He cited surveys that were handed out and found an overwhelming majority of users were in favour of the city taking the plunge to invest in permanent potties.
More than half of the 70 respondents also said they would spend more time downtown if there were accessible toilets readily available.
While Bridgman acknowledged funding to operate facilities is a challenge (the 2018 pop-up was funded by the BIZ’s CEO Sleepout proceeds), he suggested the city alter its bylaws to allow restroom buildings to have advertisements.
Coun. Ross Eadie has supported their ideas. Eadie put forward a motion to revive the 2010 strategy. The public service will review the recommendations and report back to the committee in 30 days.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
Updated on Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 7:22 PM CST: Edited