The Cost of Poop

Poop. It happens. For many people, daily. I am talking the real kind – not the metaphoric kind. We all got to go sometime.

Being homeless can mean fewer options of where to take care of this daily need. It is not uncommon in my travels to have people banned from using businesses' and restaurants' restrooms. They may also be banned from the library or city hall. Or it may be after hours and the person has no other options.

Then poop happens. Outside. Sometimes in the most inappropriate places.

In one smaller community I do work, they calculated the cost of poop removal to be $300 during daytime hours and double that after hours. It is a biohazard. It needs to be dealt with in a particular fashion to be safe. And all of this could have been avoided if the person had a place to take a dump.

Let’s say there is only one poop clean-up per day. Let us assume they all happened during the day. $300 per poop multiplied by 365 is $109,500 for the year. Depending on your jurisdiction, that is one or two case managers. Or rent subsidy of $500 for almost 20 people for a year. Poop removal is expensive. And it is money that could go elsewhere if we just figure out lower-cost solutions to the public poop issue.

If we cannot come up with a free solution to the poop issue, there are always portable potties. A quick online search shows me they rent for $175-$400 per month depending on how often they need to be cleaned. Yes, portable potties can present their own challenges (for example, drug overdose inside, drug dealing, location for sex work, etc.) but location and management of the portable toilet can mitigate a lot of that. Let’s say in our smaller community we agreed that five portable potties at $400 per month were to be made available. That is still only $24,000 per year, compared to the over $100,000 per year for public poop removal.

In a perfect world, everyone would be housed rapidly and there would be no need to talk about public poop and its costs and alternatives. But that is more of a dream than a reality. People got to go. If they are banned from everywhere that they can poop for free, then communities need to tackle the issue of where people can go in the meantime. Having to poop in a public space should never be the only option people have to take care of their business.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.


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