Restroom in Miami improves lives for homeless

Business owners, residents, and people without a permanent home in Miami say that the public bathroom that opened last month has been very convenient for all who are in the area.

Miami officials unveiled the facility, the first of its kind, on Sept. 19 at 101 W. Flagler St. The new public bathroom, which cost $312,976, is underneath the Metrorail station, near the entrance of the Miami-Dade Public Library.

The facility that looks like a kiosk, and includes a toilet, a sink, and a disposal area. An attendant is there during operating hours making sure the bathroom remains clean and that users follow the posted rules.

Users are limited to five minutes. After that point, they will receive a courtesy knock and they must exit the restroom. The attendants are also not allowed to guard personal belongings and no smoking is permitted inside of the restroom. The public restroom is open Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents the area, said the bathroom helps the area’s homeless population.

“The bathroom will be managed by the formally homeless who are job trained in beautification cleanliness,” said Russell on the day of the unveiling.

The Downtown Enhancement Team is a partnership between Camillus House and the Downtown Development Authority aimed at helping homeless people get back to work. The team is tasked with making sure the facility remains clean and the rules are followed.

According to an attendant Steven Ferguson, between 60 to 80 people use the public restroom daily.

“A lot of people use the restroom every day and I make sure that they follow the rules, that they don’t do drugs and that they keep the bathroom clean. It’s been perfect and beautiful, I think this was a great idea,” he said.

Marylin Rivera, who said she is homeless, said is thankful the new public restroom is close to the street where she sleeps. Restaurants in the area, she said, require people to buy food in order to use their restrooms.

“This is a big help to us, they are open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.,” she said.” All the restaurants close around five o’clock and we have nowhere else to go. The services are excellent. It’s been beneficial to the public and a huge help for the homeless.”

On the day of the unveiling, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said a goal of the project was to have a service available for everyone.

“The facility highlights our dedication to making vital services accessible to all. It helps us maintain a clean and welcoming downtown for residents and visitors,” he said during a speech.

Downtown Development Authority Senior Manager Jennifer Rodero said in a phone interview that they are currently working to possibly construct two other public restrooms.