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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Public Restrooms Are Hard To Find In Chicago. Some Alderpeople Want To Change That With Pilot Program

"There is not a Chicagoan out there who hasn't had occasion where they were in a really difficult spot with the most basic need that all of us have," said Ald. Daniel La Spata, a co-sponsor of the plan.

Public restrooms are hard to find in Chicago. A group of alderpeople is working to change that.
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WICKER PARK — A group of City Council members wants to see more public restrooms made available throughout the city for people experiencing homelessness and all Chicagoans.

Spearheaded by Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st) and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), 19 alderpeople have signed on to a resolution calling for the creation of a city-run pilot program to make more bathrooms accessible throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.

“The more that we talked both to residents, to those experiencing homelessness and those who have homeless neighbors, it felt like a logical thing that we could do that would improve hygiene for those experiencing really deep needs, and also create a better quality of life for all of our neighbors,” La Spata said.

In October, a Chicago Tribune story found that fewer than 500 structures in the city “contain free public restrooms with few or no barriers to entry, such as security checkpoints or client-only access.”

Supporters hope the non-binding resolution will lead to a hearing on the matter in front of the City Council’s Health and Human Relations Committee next year. La Spata said the group is looking into how other cities operate similar programs.

“There’s a lot of different models that are pursued by cities in the U.S. and internationally on this. We can see which could work for Chicago, which might work better in other times or places and look at the different costs of what other cities are doing,” he said.

Numerous organizations and social service providers working in Chicago have also signed on in support of the resolution.

“For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, the lack of access to safe and clean restrooms is much more than an inconvenience,” said Tedd Peso, Strategic Partnerships Director at The Night Ministry, in a press release. “It is a matter of human dignity and both personal and public health.”  

But asked about the effort Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to comment on the resolution.

“It’s not an issue that’s been brought to my attention,” Lightfoot said. “Here’s what I’m focused on every single day: public safety, pandemic, economic recovery. Obviously there are other issues of importance and interest, but those are the three issues I wake up thinking about.”

La Spata said the city can focus on pressing issues while also expanding sanitation services.

“There is not a Chicagoan out there who hasn’t had occasion where they were in a really difficult spot with the most basic need that all of us have,” La Spata said. “I’m not asking the mayor to turn the spotlight on this tomorrow, but I feel like it’s a conversation that we deserve to have as a city in 2022.”

Credit: Provided
Alds. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) and Daniel La Spata are calling for the creation of a pilot program to make public bathrooms more accessible

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