There comes a point in the lives of most men that regular trips to the loo in the early hours of the morning becomes a part of our everyday routine. Later, when my alarm goes off, one of the first things I do, probably just like you, is to go to the loo. If I am travelling great distances, I judge the amount of liquid I consume in the hours before setting off. There is nothing like being caught short, especially on Southern trains, some of which still seem to lack basic conveniences.
The news that public toilets in Brighton and Hove may not stay free is something that causes me concern. It isn’t anything to do with meeting my most basic needs. I can afford to pay the 20p or 30p that will be asked. On a personal note, I just hope the hygiene standards and odour in the gents will improve if we are expected to pay to spend a penny or thirty of them.
My concern relates to homeless people. Have you ever thought where the 100 or more men and women who are rough sleeping in Brighton go to use the toilet? They rely on public toilets, and they are less able to afford to pay than the likes of me.
The plan to charge people to use public toilets makes the facilities offered at First Base Day Centre all the more important. At First Base we provide toilets, showers, clean and dry clothes, food and hot drinks, and much more. We help people to leave the streets, and we help to prepare them for employment.
Unfortunately, First Base runs at a loss of up to £100,000 each year. We can only keep it running because of the generosity of the public, usually at Christmas. We have costed how much meals cost, how much a training session costs. We have even worked out the cost of fresh milk over a year so our clients don’t have to have powdered milk.
But we haven’t worked out how much it costs us to provide toilets and toilet paper. One thing is for certain, we won’t be charging our clients to use the loo.
If you would like to make a donation to First Base Day Centre to support homeless men and women, you can do so online or by sending a text to FBAS70£10 to 70070 or sending a cheque made payable to ‘BHT’ to 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH.