Vic­to­ria ‘peeosks’ get their fill

One year, six buck­ets, 18,000 litres

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - TYLER DAW­SON

In its bat­tle against pub­lic urination, Vic­to­ria isn’t yet go­ing the fancy route of self-clean­ing wash­rooms or those that emerge from be­neath the side­walk when night falls. Rather, a half-dozen “peeosks” — barely more than buck­ets — are a key piece of the city’s strat­egy to keep the streets from stink­ing.

“Busi­nesses were com­plain­ing that af­ter a Fri­day, Satur­day night, you know, when they would come to work, their door­ways smelled like urine,” says city Coun­cil­lor Char­layne Thor­ton-joe.

The as­sump­tion was the urine-soaked door­ways and al­leys — some busi­nesses, she said, had so much pee seep into their stores they had to re­place car­pets — were the fault of home­less peo­ple.

Not so.

“I t ’s pre­dom­i­nantly males,” said Thor­ton-joe.

And they don’t just pee in pub­lic in Vic­to­ria.

Cities across Canada, and around the world, have out­door toi­lets of vary­ing de­grees of glam­our.


Van­cou­ver, Mon­treal and Toronto all have self-clean­ing pub­lic toi­lets. Ed­mon­ton, which is work­ing on a bath­room strat­egy, has a pub­lic toi­let near the pop­u­lar Whyte Av­enue bar strip, with a glass wall (the stalls are still pri­vate) to pre­vent bad be­hav­iour in­side. It doesn’t al­ways work, with the fa­cil­ity of­ten used for sleep­ing and drug use. (It has a 31/2 star re­view on Yelp.)

Ber­lin has a fa­mous green pis­soir. Paris has its steel “toi­lettes” and a uri­nal — a “uritrot­toir” — that re­sem­bles a post­box.

Vic­to­ria even in­stalled an artsy pub­lic uri­nal, val­ued at $60,000. The peeosks, alas, are not quite so fancy. They are lit­tle more than a plas­tic garbage can with a toi­let-style lid, stand­ing at uri­nal height.

There are six of them, each cost­ing $250, and since 2013 they have been put out on week­ends, through a pro­gram spon­sored by restau­rant and bar own­ers.

They’re placed at pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied spots on the ba­sis of com­plaints from down­town busi­nesses.

A client of the Our Place So­ci­ety, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps the home­less and drug-ad­dicted in Vic­to­ria, de­liv­ers the uri­nals on a three-wheeled bi­cy­cle on Fri­day and Satur­day evenings, then picks them up the next morn­ing to dump them into the sewer and clean them.

“They’re usu­ally about, any­where from a third to half full,” said Bob Frank, the build­ing man­ager for Our Place.

“My feel­ing is they are be­ing used and that means one less use in an alleyway or in a door­way,” Thorn­ton-joe said.

The city’s data back that up: Some 4,000 litres of urine were col­lected via the peeosks in three months in 2018. Run the math, and that’s 16,000 litres of urine in a year.

Un­til the uri­nals made the news in re­cent days flit­ting around so­cial me­dia, there had been hardly any com­ment on their ex­is­tence be­cause they were in­stalled at night and hauled away early in the morn­ing.

In fact, the city said in an email that there have been fewer com­plaints from busi­nesses about pub­lic uri­nati on, and that they had re­ceived in­quiries one week­end when the per­son in­stalling the uri­nals for the evenings was off sick, and wasn’t able to put them out.

But they are a stand-in, Thorn­ton-joe sug­gested, un­til more ro­bust pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties can be ac­quired.

For in­stance, the peeosks aren’ t es­pe­cially fe­male-friendly. Though, sug­gested Thorn­ton-joe, women might be more likely to ac­tu­ally go into a restau­rant or cof­fee shop in­stead of pee­ing on the street.


An open-air uri­nal in­stalled out­side of a bar in Vic­to­ria.

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