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What would you do without a toilet?

Most of us don’t think about not having a toilet until we’re in a position where we don’t have one but have to go! This is a privilege we can easily take for granted. Knowing that there will be a toilet when we need one allows us to live our lives with a relaxation and ease many of our users don’t enjoy.

Over the next few months, we want to bring you behind that curtain of toilet-access-privilege and show you what it can mean to not have adequate toilet access. This month’s focus: personal health.

Needing a toilet is a byproduct of two of the most basic human needs: food and water. But what happens when we eat food or drink water? A little bit later, we have to poop or pee.

Many of our users have told us how their lack of toilet access means they have to plan when they eat and drink.

For example, if you know that you’ll have a place to go to the bathroom only when the grocery store is open from 5am to 10pm, you also know that you really need to avoid having to go to the bathroom from 10pm until 5am the next day.

Depending on your health and what and how much you ate or drank, you might know that if you eat dinner, you’ll need to pee around two hours later. This means you’d better not eat dinner any later than 8pm. But, you also know that if you hydrate before bed, you’ll need to pee another hour after that. So, you’d better plan on not hydrating at all after 9pm.

This might sound like a typical bathroom schedule for you. But what if it’s not the local grocery store that’s your available bathroom? What if it’s a smaller store or your day job that’s providing your toilet access? A 9am to 5pm bathroom availability is a lot trickier to manage. Based on our above calculations, you’d better plan on eating dinner no later than 3pm and stopping hydrating at 4.

But what happens if you don’t drink anything from 4pm until 7am the next day? That’s over half the day without hydrating, and often the hottest part of the day at that. Especially in the desert of Colorado, this can be quite dangerous.

Unsheltered community members have been admitted to the ER for dehydration because they didn’t have anywhere to pee.

Let’s say you’re able to find a discrete bush to pee behind, and so don’t limit your water intake. Do you still limit when and what you eat? If you do, you risk also being admitted to the ER for malnutrition. If you don’t, where do you poop?

People in the unsheltered community have also been admitted to the ER for bowel blockages because they “held it in."

What would you do if you were in this situation? Most of us who have toilet access don’t know the answer to that question, and those of us experiencing a lack of toilet access struggle to find solutions each day.

These are just some of the reasons we want to provide 24/7 equitable toilet access in our community. Join us next month to talk about the legal consequences of inadequate toilet access.

This post originally appeared in our April 2024 newsletter.

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