Photo caption:   An Urban Rest Stop bathroom. Photo credit: Low Income Housing Institute.

How often have you searched around to find a public restroom? Many of us take for granted that we can find and use the restroom when we are in a restaurant, at work, at school in a department store or at the movies.

We also enjoy waking up each morning and taking a hot shower before heading out for work, school, exercise or other activities. But if you are a homeless individual or family, finding a safe, clean and welcoming place to shampoo, shower, brush your teeth and get cleaned up can be a major obstacle.

According to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, it’s an obstacle that more than 3,100 homeless families with children in King County face. These families live in cars or emergency shelters, without access to restrooms, showers or laundry facilities. A recent One Night Count of homeless people conducted at midnight on January 24th marks a total of 2,736 homeless men, women and children face were found living on the streets of Seattle and King County.

A healthy community is created when everyone has access to clean water, showers, clean clothes, key services and restrooms to meet their personal hygiene needs. And no one can secure or maintain employment or education without a clean appearance.

The Urban Rest Stop, a hygiene center in downtown Seattle, provides individuals and families with free access to showers, laundry machines, restrooms and other on-site services. In 2012, the URS provided 49,055 showers, 35,432 laundry loads and 127,476 restroom uses. Patrons also benefit from haircuts, legal assistance with Veteran’s and Social Security benefits, health workshops, Hepatitis A and B testing and vaccinations. An average of 450 homeless people each day receive help.

Thankfully, when Seattle reduced funding for urban rest stops, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and other community groups and advocates raised their voices to City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn to protect them. The funding was restored.

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