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When You Gotta Go: The Public Bathroom Problem

A porta-potty waits for eclipse campers at the rodeo grounds in Tetonia, Idaho. On Sunday afternoon, two tents were seen at the makeshift campground.
A porta-potty waits for eclipse campers at the rodeo grounds in Tetonia, Idaho. On Sunday afternoon, two tents were seen at the makeshift campground.

Everybody does it. But the places we safely can do it in public are fewer and further between. We’re talking, of course, about using the bathroom. 

The average person uses the restroom six to eight times per day. By the time we’re 80, we’ll have spent about two years of our life in the bathroom, according to the American Restroom Association. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the closure of many of the scant public restrooms in American cities. But even before the pandemic, there often weren’t sufficient safe, clean options for people in need.

Public bathrooms are often critical resources for those who use them – especially people experiencing homelessnessthose with health conditionstruckers and delivery drivers – and those who just need to use a bathroom, right now. 

Why do we have so few public bathrooms? And why is it so hard for us to talk about something everyone does?

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