Guidance for others


Start with core of individuals, representing different constituencies, who are passionate about the topic and expand this core:

  • Three of us have been doing this for nearly nine years. We are determined to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to make progress in achieving our goal.
  • As we have progressed, we have identified others who are passionate about the topic; the skills these individuals bring, and their support, have been critical.
  • We represent different constituencies: bathroom challenged, a runner, people experiencing homelessness, older adults

Follow a research-based approach

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel: build on lessons learned/ best practices from elsewhere
  • We started out by carrying out a feasibility study[1] to identify lessons learned/best practices from other cities that have been successful in installing/maintaining clean, safe public restrooms have gone about doing this that are applicable to DC.
  1. Before launching, document the need in your city
  • Our first task , after launching, was to carry out a restroom inventory[2] in/near downtown DC: (1) We identified clean, safe public restrooms and their hours  and (2) We designed and carried out an out an inventory of private businesses to find out how many opened their restrooms to the public.
  1. Update and incorporate in your strategy new information on lesons learned elsewhere as they become available, as well as on information on the need in your city:
  • We continued to track new developments with public restrooms and have incorporated them into our strategy/presentations.
  • We did two follow ups[3] to the Restroom Inventory we carried out in 2015 of private businesses.  In 2015 we found that 43 of 85 businesses opened their restrooms to the public; in 2016, 28 of the 43 were still open to the public; in 2017 only 11 were open to the public.
  • In 2018 in we learned about the Community Toilet Scheme (CTS), a new approach where businesses open their restrooms to the public. To learn about the CTS we prepared[4] a report on lessons learned/best practices[5] based on interviews contacts with several Boroughs in England that had applied it.
  • In 2019, interested in learning more about the Portland Loo, we prepared a study based on interviews with individuals in 17 cities in the US and Canada to learn about best practices applicable to Washington DC.
  1. Refer to what you have learned through your research in everything you do: presentations, testimonies, media articles, handouts
  • This has given us a great deal of credibility.

Use your research to establish a goal and strategy

  1. Establish a  goal and strategy
  • Our goal is: clean, safe public restrooms available to everyone in needed areas in/near downtown DC
  • We have a 3-pronged strategy:
  • Raise consciousness of the need for clean, safe public restrooms
  • Educate on why clean, safe public restrooms are needed and who benefits
  • Advocate for the DC government to install/maintain clean, safe public restrooms in needed areas of DC
  1. Be open to changing your strategy as you encounter new opportunities/challenges:
  • When we began our focus was on building community support in one geographic area and launching as a pilot.
  • However, after Council Member Nadeau, influenced by our work, introduced legislation that had a city-wide focus, we had to make significant changes in our strategy/approach
  • Take a broad approach to justifying why clean, safe public restroom are needed
  • We made sure to touch on the following themes in everything we did (presentations, articles in the media, testimonies to the DC Council):
  • Access to clean, safe public restrooms is a human right and fundamental to human dignity; everyone needs access to clean, safe, public restrooms when nature calls
  • Clean, safe public restrooms are key for personal and public health
  • There are many people who are restroom challenged, when nature calls, they have to go urgently, or risk an accident
  • Businesses benefit from having clean, safe restrooms nearby
  • Walkers, bikers, joggers are more apt to exercise when they know they can access a clean, safe public restroom when nature calls
  • Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as bus drivers and delivery people also need access to clean, safe public restrooms when nature calls.
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness are often forced to urinate/defecate in the open and in doing so risk getting a fine, jail time or both
  1. Provide information on public restroom options that you have identified through your research and be prepared to answer questions about them
  • All of our presentations include three slides, each depicting a different restroom option (Portland Loo, Automated Public Toilets, Community Toilet Scheme)
  • Each slide provides an illustration of the option, along with information on costs, cleanliness, and safety.
  1. Always be one step ahead
  • Throughout our advocacy we have remained on the lookout for new opportunities, challenges so as to be poised to address them.
  • When the DC Council passed the restroom Bill[6] that we inspired (December 2018) and it became Law (April 2019), the Mayor opted not to include funding to implement the Law in the DC FY 2020 budget. We were able to persuade DC Councilmembers to include funding for the Law in the FY 2020 budget.
  • When a new standalone option, The Throne, was introduced in 2021 we spent time learning about it, visiting Thrones before introducing it into our presentations.






[6] Bill 22-0223, Public Restroom Facilities Installation and Promotion Act of 2018:


Develop vehicles for getting your messages out

Our vehicles have been and continue to be:

  • Delivering presentations to a wide variety of audiences (over 70 to date)
  • Distributing and obtaining signatures to petitions (two petitions with over 2,000 signatures)
  • Delivering testimonies at DC Council hearings and sending emails to Councilmembers at key moments when we have needed their support (58 testimonies to date)
  • One on one meetings designed to achieve the support of key actors
  • Attending events where we can have a table with information
  • Seeking out opportunities to deliver these messages through the various media (20 articles in the written media, 3 radio appearances, 3 TV appearances).
  • In 2020 we created a Twitter account  @DCrestooms which we use whenever there is something to report (positive or otherwise)
  1. Build a cadre of individuals/organizations that you can draw upon when you need help
  • 12 ANCs [1]sent resolutions to the Mayor and DC Council supporting the need for clean, safe public restrooms
  • We have endorsements from over 25 organizations that represent different interests –  advocacy organizations, organizations that help the underserved;  faith-based organizations.
  • A number of these individuals have: helped us to write articles for the media, delivered testimonies to the DC Council during oversight and budget hearings, participated with us in doing presentations.
  1. Keep on the lookout for, and incorporate, individuals with skills sets that can help you
  • We received assistance from graphic artists in preparing handouts
  • Without professional assistance from a prominent PR firm that guided us in developing a strong PowerPoint presentation and coaching us in delivering presentations, we wouldn't be where we are today.
  • Several of these people have become our advisors who we turn to for brainstorming and feedback
  1. Identify/cultivate individuals in influential positions (BIDs, elsewhere) that we can reach out to when we need help: either up front or behind the scenes
  • When the DC government delayed initiation of the public restroom pilots, the President and CEO of the Downtown Business Investment District (BID), at our suggestion, visited the mayor who immediately sent instructions to her staff to start implementing the pilots.
  1. When entering new turf where you have no experience, move carefully seeking the advice of the individuals “in the know” that can help you.
  • When the proposed legislation began moving forward in 2017, we realized we didn’t have the knowledge needed to be of assistance.
  • Starting in the Fall of 2017, and through the Spring of 2018, we reached out on numerous occasions to seek advice from DC Council members supporting the legislation and others outside of the Council “in the know”.
  • We have taken this approach on three occasions, and it has paid off:
  • Helping to get the public restroom bill through two committees and onto the DC Council floor for full Council vote where there was a unanimous vote in favor of the bill (Fall of 2018)
  • Lobbying the Mayor to include funds in her FY 2020 budget to fund the public, restrooms pilots, where we weren’t successful (Winter of 2019)
  • Preparing and delivering testimonies at different DC Council budget oversight hearings and working closely with key DC Council committees to get funds into their FY 2020 markup report which outlines the budget recommendations they are making to the full Council, which was a success (Spring 2019)

[1] An ANC is a non-partisan, neighborhood body in Washington DC made up of locally elected representatives called Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners


  1. Since December 2016 we have been sending out updates (at the beginning every two weeks, then monthly).:
  • The updates provide highlights of what we are doing, challenges we are facing, and next steps.
  • The distribution list has been gradually expanding: we are now up to 40 individuals
  1. We have reached out periodically to organizations that support your advocacy to thank them, inform them of our progress, and let them know what is coming next:
  • This is not only good practice, but also a means of touching base with these organizations when we need their help.


  1. Early on establish an internet presence
  • In 2016 a tab was inserted on the People for Fairness Coalition website describing our restroom initiative (
  • In 2021, when we became DC Public Restrooms, we reformulated the information on this tab and launched our own website (
  • All of our studies are on our webpage; as are all of our media appearances; and the testimonies we have delivered.
  1. Seek out opporitunities to connect with the written media, radio and TV
  • We started slowly with articles in two small local newspapers.
  • In March of 2017 we were invited to participate on the Kojo Nnamdi show, a daily radio program listened to broadly in DC.
  • In December 2017 we were able to get an opinion piece in the Washington Post
  • As we got increased visibility, we began receiving more and more requests for interviews
  • Once it came time for the legislation to be voted on, we were bombarded with media interest/articles (the list of articles that have come out thus far appear on our website).
  1. Take advantage of all mass media opportunities to get your message(s) out.
  • We started on Twitter in 2019 and are excited at the attention we are being given
  • We have a long way to go to develop a strong social media platform.


  1. Be persistent
  • Had we given up every time we encountered a roadblock (of which there were many),  a Bill would have never been introduced that became Law .
  1. Realize that it can be a long process
  • When we began our advocacy in early 2015, we never imagined that 8 years later (2023) we would still be in an advocacy mode.
  1. Take into account that there are external factors beyond your control that can affect your effectiveness
  • When a DC Councilmember decided to use our research to introduce a Bill for two restroom pilots, we never imagined there would be so many hurdles, many brought about by a lack of interest in/financial commitment at the most senior levels of the DC government to taking steps to increase restroom access.
  • This has not only delayed the process; it actually has put a stop to funding for public restrooms in the mayor's  FY 2024 budget.
  • When we started advocating in 2016 for DC to carry out a pilot to provide incentives to businesses to open their restrooms to the public (based on the successful Community Toilet Scheme in England) we couldn’t have anticipated the onset of the COVID pandemic in early 2020 and its adverse implications for carrying out this pilot.
  • As a result of COVID, office occupancy in downtown DC where the pilot was to take place, went down dramatically, extending beyond COVID. This has dramatically reduced foot traffic in this area. It has also resulted in the closure of many restaurants and commercial establishments.
  • During COVID homelessness increased in this area and, along with it, an increase in drug use.
  • Since the end of COVID there has been a dramatic increase in violent crime (robberies of people on foot, carjacking, some murders) which have provided a disincentive for people to visit the downtown area to eat and shop.
  1. Laws can take a long time to be implemented; getting the support of key leaders from the beginning can shorten the time frame immensely.
  • Built into Law 22-280 were several  precautionary steps (a survey of restroom needs, formation of a Working Group charged with providing recommendations). These steps  took nearly two years to be accomplished.
  • The fact that the mayor was never behind this initiative has severely crippled the process, both in speed of implementation and finally in 2023 removing the budget for the pilots.
  • Other cities where either the leader (Mayor) or an influential person (businessperson or others) able to get the buy in from leadership, have been successful in getting standalone restrooms installed within anywhere from 1 to 3 years.
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