ROANOKE, Va. – Those who struggle with homelessness are faced with everyday needs that many of us may not think much about like finding a restroom.
“The issues that many cities and towns have is a lack of public restroom facilities. Roanoke is not any different than any other place,” said chair Paula Prince at the Blue Ridge Inter-Agency counsel on homelessness.
The concern about public restrooms came to light this month when Metro Valley said its restrooms were getting abused.
While it's not clear who was responsible, there's no question that public restrooms in downtown Roanoke are limited in numbers.
“Whether you are experiencing homelessness or not, it is often difficult to find a public restroom for anyone,” Prince said.
Ideas like building more public restrooms have been considered.
“There was talk about creating different public restroom opportunities,” Prince said.
But for economic reasons, the plans never went forward.
“That kind of went by the wayside, but we have been cognizant of the difficulties of finding public restrooms for anybody,” Prince said.
As for the homeless, Prince is tackling the complex subject head-on, focusing on long-term solutions.
“What we have been focusing on is getting people housed so that they are no longer homeless,” Prince said.
In the meantime, the Rescue Mission in Roanoke keeps their doors open for those in need from morning to evening.
“We are open all day long for people who are coming, and they're welcome to use the restrooms here,” said chief development officer Tracy Altizer, at the Rescue Mission.
“Getting them housed is probably the best solution,” Prince said.
Prince believes continued collaboration is the ultimate strategy to addressing these issues.