Drug use in city's portable toilets: Balancing dignity with overdose risk
LONDON, ONT. -- Portable toilets for Londoners experiencing homelessness can be dangerous to individuals using them as a discrete place to inject drugs.
City hall has placed 16 toilets in areas frequented by people who are homeless as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a recent inspection by CTV News found needles and other signs of drug use inside.
The latching door and privacy poses a health risk if someone overdoses or has a drug-related medical emergency while unsupervised.
“The risk is there, people are going to use,” explains the city’s Manager of Homeless Prevention Craig Cooper. “We always encourage them to use the supervised injection site.”
But a man who did not want to be identified told CTV News the recently installed toilets are more convenient than travelling downtown to the Carepoint supervised drug consumption site.
“These stations are checked daily, multiple times a day,” Cooper suggests the portable toilet program balances risk against need.
“We recognize that the need in the community for comfort stations is likely greater to some degree than the risk of some drug use in them.”
Some shelters restrict bathrooms to people who are placed in one of their beds.
“The shelters want to limit the spread of COVID-19, if somebody is symptomatic or positive, they really have stuck to that rule more stringently than previously,” says Cooper.
Records indicating daily cleaning are posted inside the portable toilets.
Cooper says concerns about the situation witnessed by CTV News in a parking lot off English Street have been communicated to outreach workers.