An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


City workers installing ‘Portland Loo’ public toilet

Lancaster’s new Portland Loo. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

City workers are installing an outdoor public toilet downtown that will be accessible overnight, the first of its kind in Lancaster.

The toilet, known as a “Portland Loo,” sits under the eaves of the Prince Street Garage at the corner of North Prince and West Orange streets.

Workers began preparing the site and running utilities to it in late January. It will be ready no later than the end of the month and hopefully as early as the end of next week, said Mayor Danene Sorace and Rebecca Geiser, deputy director of health, housing and community development.

Advocates have been urging the city to provide toilet facilities for homeless individuals who congregate in Binns Park and sleep there and on the street nearby.

During the day, they can use the restrooms accessed from the breezeway connecting Ewell Plaza to East Marion Street next to the Lancaster Public Library, but they and the breezeway itself are closed overnight.

Since mid-November, there has been a portable toilet behind the temporary homeless shelter operated by the Lancaster County Food Hub at 232 N. Prince St.; prior to that, the nearest available site had been a portable toilet in Culliton Park, roughly a 12-minute walk away.

Advocates say the lack of convenient toilets is a challenge for the city’s unsheltered population, many of whom have disabilities and struggle to walk more than a few yards. They say the lack of alternatives has led to the public defecation reported at the park, and that individuals have soiled themselves, too, creating hygiene problems and potential infection risks.

Portland Loos are designed to be durable and resistant to vandalism. The model that Lancaster purchased cost $172,710 and installation is expected to cost no more than $15,000. The downtown Clean Teams, overseen by the Downtown Investment District, will handle routine cleaning and maintenance.