C’mon Give a Shi_t!

November 19, 2013

This guest blog post is from Doneice Sandoval of Lava Mae.

When you think about people who lack access to sanitation, people in Africa and India or other third-world countries come to mind. You don’t think of people in the U.S.

The truth, however, is that tens of thousands of men, women and children living on the streets in our cities and towns struggle every day for access to toilets. There’s an absolute shortage of public bathrooms; even citizens who wouldn’t garner suspicion or resistance because of the way they’re dressed often have no other option but to duck into big box stores or make inconsequential purchases at smaller ones just to use the facilities.

A recent article posted on San Francisco’s Bold Italic blog entitled “San Francisco’s Poop Problem is Serious” underscores this reality. In it, homeless advocate Jennifer Friedenbach said, “Anywhere you go in the world, westernized or not, you have enough public restrooms for the homeless, for tourists, for the general public. Not here, though. It’s pretty brutal.”

1c9760_220fe1e6cb6ab054b5a5dd2edeaedd18.png_srz_320_105_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzNow imagine you’re homeless; your clothes are tattered and dirty. What options do you have? For many, it’s the street or a bush in a public park. Where’s the dignity, the humanity, in that?

Lava Mae was founded on the belief that everyone has the right to be clean; to have dignity. Access to safe sanitation is a basic human right: it holds the power to restore a person’s self worth, as well as preempt the treatment of all sorts of preventable illnesses. Our mobile shower and toilet trucks are designed to reach people experiencing homelessness where they are: on the streets in our very own communities.

To raise awareness about the risks facing the 2.5 billion people, in the U.S. and abroad, who lack access to clean, private toilets, Lava Mae is mounting a public art installation entitled C’mon Give a Sh_t!. The installation, comprised of six “decorated” toilets, will grace San Francisco’s emerging mid-market district where tech companies have relocated in droves. The goal is to engage this audience in discussions and invite them to participate by taking and uploading images of themselves (with the toilets) to Lava Mae’s Pinterest page located here. If you’re in SF for the day, come on down. We’ll be at Market Street near 10th St. from 7am to 7pm on the 19th – World Toilet Day 2013.

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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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