Seattle Public Library Re-Opens Restrooms at Five Locations Providing Access to Hygiene Resources for People Living Unsheltered to Protect Against COVID-19

Seattle (April 21, 2020) – The City of Seattle and The Seattle Public Library (SPL) announced today the re-opening of restrooms at five library locations, providing additional vital hygiene resources to people living unsheltered. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the City continues to increase access to hygiene facilities.  

“We are living through an unprecedented time and over the past weeks we have worked to aggressively stand up resources to support our unsheltered neighbors. Our city employees are supportive, taking on positions in new shelter spaces, childcare facilities, food delivery and more,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to lead this generous City with the best employees, who continue to giveback to our residents most in need during times of crisis. We will continue to build on these resources to keep all of Seattle’s communities safe.” 

“Equity is an important value to the Library and I believe we have an opportunity to support our most vulnerable neighbors by providing restroom access during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian. 

“This is a smart decision. We know utilizing the resources we already have is less expensive than renting or buying new hygiene facilities.  This is another important step in both addressing COVID-19 and Hepatitis-A spike we are experiencing in Ballard. As the City continues to work on additional strategies, we need continued urgent action in Ballard to get people the services they need and better ways to intervene in problematic behavior,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle). 

“While chairing a special meeting of the Select Committee and Homelessness Strategies & Investments, it became clear that public restrooms in City-owned facilities, such as libraries, play an important role in providing hygiene services to our homeless neighbors. I’m thankful Mayor Durkan and Seattle Libraries have opted to reopen these important community resources. I will continue to work with my Council colleagues, the Mayor, and other partners to identify more public resources for hygiene facilities, while ensuring City workers staffing our public restrooms have proper access to protective equipment,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia).  

Because of the unprecedented public health crisis, the City closed its libraries to help slow the spread of COVID-19 illness. In rapid succession, restaurants, and non-essential businesses also faced closure under Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. While the order has had a positive impact slowing disease transmission, an unintended consequence is limited access to public and private restroom facilities.  

To address lost capacity, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) added 12 hygiene stations, and Parks re-opened 50 parks facilities that are closed through the winter months to protect utility infrastructure. The City currently has as of April 15:  

  • 137 facility locations operated by SPR, within 107 distinct parks and community centers. At any given time, facilities or parks may be temporarily closed for construction, maintenance, vandalism, or cleaning. Of these facilities:  
    • Four community centers remain has open to the public with access to showers. The City has restrooms serving 21 of the 26 SPR community centers due to SPR adjacent facilities or outdoor access to community center restrooms.  
    • Within these facility locations, there are 112 bathrooms with toilets (or comfort stations), 78 single-user portable bathrooms (or sanicans), and three portable handwashing stations. In total, there are 190 facilities with toilets and an additional three portable handwashing stations. Portable restrooms (or sanicans) are available 24/7.   
    • Ten brick-and-mortar bathroom locations are also open 24/7.   
  • 12 24/7 hygiene stations operated by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) which include 26 portable bathrooms or sanicans and 12 handwashing sinks;  
  • 11 day centers with bathrooms (for clients); and   
  • Restrooms at City Hall and Seattle Center.  

SPL will augment these resources by re-opening five facilities and restrooms in high-need areas to better support the public health needs of people living unsheltered during this crisis. This re-opening will be done in coordination and under the guidance of Public Health – Seattle & King County.  

The restrooms at the following Library locations will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday:  

  • Ballard Branch, 5614 22nd Ave. N.W. (Opening Thursday, April 23) 
  • Beacon Hill Branch, 2821 Beacon Ave. S. (Opening Thursday, April 23)  
  • University Branch, 5009 Roosevelt Way N.E (Opening Thursday, April 23) 
  • Capitol Hill Branch, 425 Harvard Ave. E. (Opening Monday, April 27) 
  • Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave. (Opening Monday, April 27) 

No other services will be offered in those buildings when the restrooms are open. Locations will be staffed with security personnel, custodial workers, and libraries staff. To help prevent further spread of COVID-19, Library branches will employ social distancing protocols, ask patrons to complete a brief COVID-19 health screener prior to entering the building, and will limit the number of individuals permitted in the building for restroom use at a time. The restrooms will be regularly cleaned in accordance with guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County.  

In recent weeks the City has worked to account for all hygiene resources available to the public. At any given time, facilities or parks may be temporarily closed for construction, maintenance, vandalism, or cleaning. For more information on all COVID-19 resources, visit here

From the onset of the outbreak, City of Seattle employees have stepped up to take on non-traditional positions to assist our residents throughout the pandemic. Seattle Center, Human Services Department, Parks and Recreation, and now Seattle Libraries employees are serving as frontline staff providing life-saving resources to our most vulnerable communities.