Somerville

Somerville to Install Public Restrooms as Limited Options Have Led to Messes

City officials in Somerville, Massachusetts, say public restrooms will be installed in Union Square, Davis Square and East Somerville

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There is a new plan to install public toilets in Somerville, Massachusetts, to help prevent the mess community members have been dealing with.

Kat Powers, director of the Somerville Media Center, says there aren't many public restroom options after hours.

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"We don't do enough public bathrooms. That's part of the reason that SMC keeps its doors open for people who've got to go, because when you have to go, you've got to go," she said. "It is unfortunate that I have sometimes shown up first thing in the morning and had to clean off our building because there is a little corner or something where someone can — well, it's not 'Use the facilities,' it's 'Use the privacy of our building or a shadow of our building' to relieve themselves."

"There were a lot of services here [in Union Square], including some places where, again, our unhoused neighbors could come in and use facilities," said Somerville City Councilor TJ Scott. "Unfortunately, with [former Gov. Charlie] Baker's defunding and the [MBTA Green Line Extension] displacing the Walnut Street Center, the number of those places has really gone down."

Michael Katz, a board member at Union Square Main Streets, says volunteers with the Union Square Farmer's Market have cleaned up their share of human waste, too.

"Let's face it, no one wants to go outside. It's out of desperation," Katz said.

A portable toilet placed at Union Square provides an option, but Katz says a more permanent public bathroom would be more comfortable for everyone.

This month, the city of Somerville approved funding to install three public toilets manufactured by Portland Loo Company — designed to be free and accessible around the clock.

"It's important that we come back to basic human rights and basic human dignity to allow our homeless population, or people who are just out shopping, people who are just out around, a chance to have — to be dignified," Katz said.

Somerville's new public restrooms are expected to be installed by fall in Union Square, Davis Square and East Somerville.

In the meantime, a local student compiled a list of public bathrooms in the Greater Boston area and created an online map at bathroomaccess.com.

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