Homeless Canaries Need Access to Fragrance-Free Showers

 

I saw an announcement on fb from a city agency that was opening up an arena to allow homeless people a place to shower, and they were also providing soap, shampoo, and other necessities.

“People who are homeless or precariously housed in (the city) relied upon bathrooms and showers in public facilities. But, they have closed their doors during the pandemic. There are now free showers and washrooms open daily at (the)  Arena.”

Homelessness is something far too many human canaries are intimately  familiar with, since there are so few accessible, medically safe housing options available when our ‘sensitivities’ become disabling.  Many  human canaries are  precariously housed too.


Graphic image text description:

Everyone welcome.
Toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, and more provided.
Free showers & washrooms
———————————————————————-
ACCESSIBILITY QUESTION:
Is the soap and shampoo fragrance-free so that people with environmental ‘sensitivities’ could also access the space?
MAY is MCS/ES Awareness Month

I was (due to MCS/ES related accessibility barriers) homeless myself for a year, and the need to shower did not go away. I know several homeless canaries now, one who just a few days ago was discussing her attempts to create a shower outside the van she is living in, so I asked the fb page a question about accessibility for homeless canaries.

Here’s what happened:

 

Linda:
Is the soap and shampoo fragrance-free so that people with environmental ‘sensitivities’ could also access the space?

Author:
Hi Linda, great question. We will make sure fragrance free products are available. Anyone who needs them can check with the staff when they arrive.

Linda:
Thank you! Except that’s a little bit like saying we’ll provide a non-smoking table for anyone who requests it!
Edited to say: Thank you! Except that’s a little bit like saying we’ll provide a non-smoking table in a room full of smokers for anyone who requests it!

Linda:
For future reference (since the space is not accessible for those with MCS/ES now):

From ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), September 2019

4.2 Recommendations

1. Accepting the leadership offered by the Task Force on Environmental Health to address the health care system, proactive change can begin immediately at all levels of society including federal, provincial, and municipal governments and public departments and agencies.

These would include, but are not limited to, public transportation providers, school boards, and the private sector.

For example:

a. All provincial ministries should consult on and revise their Statements of Environmental Values (as required under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights) to achieve procurement policies, workplace scent-free policies, and other means to reduce environmental triggers in their workplaces, with particular focus on addressing front-line/public-facing departments and services.

b. Likewise, all municipal governments should consult on and finalize comparable policies to address procurement, workplace scent-free policies, and other means to reduce environmental triggers in municipal workplaces, and particularly in front-line/public-facing services and departments.

c. Similarly, both public and private transit and transportation services (buses, trains, taxis, etc.) should also develop scent or fragrance free policies.

2. A corporate challenge is needed to address environmental triggers in the private sector in three major respects: workplaces, consumer product pricing and housing:

Also:

“We must find creative ways of ensuring public understanding, respect and adherence to providing the least toxic environment for all Ontarians. It may be trite to say everyone will benefit from living in the least toxic environment, but that is the task going forward.”

and

The Honourable David C. Onley, the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (2007-2014) was appointed to lead the Third Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

He found that “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers”

Several mentions of ES, and a specific recommendation on pg 80:

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

 

Then someone named Valerie stepped in….

Valerie:
What you are offering is wonderful and I’m sure that anyone in need will be grateful for this. Fragrance will be the least of their worry at this point. You all can only do so much with what is provided…thank you so much for what you are doing to help during these difficult times!

Valerie:
Also, in shelters and on regular days they would be dealing with all sorts of things. I’m confident that the majority of the people who will access this resource know how to navigate it’s system. Lets not complicate such help.

Linda:
I agree what is being offered IS wonderful, appreciated, and very much needed

However (and these things do coexist), there’s a segment of the population that is systematically excluded from ALL aid and resources due to systemic accessibility barriers like these.

Are people with chemical and environmental disabilities expendable because people can’t be arsed to use fragrance-free products everywhere?

Valerie:
And if they can’t meet that criteria during these times? Yes, sensitivities exist and they are real but it may be something with little control. They need to use disinfectants that have scent and people will be exposed no matter what the shampoo smells like.

Linda:
So again, you are saying that it’s ok for people who have disabling sensitivities to not have access to showers or facilities because fragranced products are more important.

Linda:
The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s “Environmental sensitivity and scent-free policies”

“A scent-free policy is similar to other workplace policies such as anti-harassment policies.”

People who have allergies or sensitivity to certain products may have a bad reaction to a much lower level of chemicals, perfumes or environmental triggers than the average person.

Their reaction is a medical condition. It is a recognized disability. People with allergies or environmental sensitivity are entitled to protection from its cause.

The Canadian Human Right Act protects people with allergies or environmental sensitivities, like any other disability.

Employers and service providers must ensure that their facilities are accessible and safe. In the case of environmental sensitivities, this means:

– reducing the use of chemicals;
– having a scent-free policy;

Valerie:
Nows not the time for this. I’m sure they have limited funds and access so throwing laws around isn’t being very helpful. On a regular day, fine but not today.

Linda:
Valerie when is the time for this? When people with ‘sensitivities’ are dead and no longer a “problem” because accommodating them with a simple change of products is too inconvenient for some of you?

Valerie:
Linda  no you’re being extreme. Now is not the time for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. If you want to make it into something radical then that’s on you.

Linda:
Valerie  you seem to think this is a trivial issue for people?

You think excluding people from society is ok?
You think causing disabling pain and suffering is ok?
You think causing homelessness and denying access to basic services is ok?

Is your fragrance addiction that important to you that you would deny people the right to exist?

Valerie:
Linda  nope but I have nothing left to say to you because walking in circles is boring.

Linda:
Valerie  I really hope you don’t develop severe chemical and environmental ‘sensitivities’ yourself, because if you think dealing with this virus is a pain, you ain’t seen nothing yet…
It’s only a teeny weeny look into how people with MCS/ES have to try to survive on a daily basis, for years on end.
And people like you just exacerbate the suffering.
I really don’t know how you sleep at night.

Valerie:
Linda from the sounds of how severe your sensitivities are you must have a place to live and a shower to shower in safely. Sounds like you need to develop a different kind of sensitivity. This is about a different group of vulnerable people having their basic needs met. You are so concerned with yourself that you can’t see the big picture and that’s so sad. I shouldn’t bother replying but I can’t help but be irritated by how self absorbed you’re being. I’m not even sure you are getting my point because you are so consumed by ‘your’ own needs and what it’s like for ‘you’. I am sorry that you have been dealt such an awful way of having to live but I don’t find it fitting in this setting. I understand you trying to advocate for people in your position but not through this service.

Linda:
Valerie, you display a profound ignorance on this subject so perhaps you could educate yourself or go away and do something else?

Over 1M Canadians were dr diagnosed with MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) in 2016 according to the CCHS, with over 400,000 in Ontario alone. There are over 580K Canadians with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) (listed by Stats Can as CFS), many who also experience disabling MCS (MCS falls under the umbrella term environmental sensitivities, which is used by the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions, among others). I forget the numbers for fibromyalgia, but there’s a significant overlap there too, with many having MCS as well.

Accessible and safe housing is one of the most difficult things for people with MCS/ES to find. Far too many people with MCS end up homeless, living out of tents and cars (if they can still afford one). I was homeless for over a year. Several of my close fb friends are homeless now. I know a large number of others online. Quite a few people I have known over the years have committed suicide because they couldn’t find a safe place to sleep, eat, shower, live, exist… Some of them are still on my fb friends lists, some never made it to fb… And there are many more who I didn’t know personally but have friends who knew them… suicide is very common for people who develop MCS/ES, because the accessibility barriers and attitudes (like yours Valerie) are systemic.

So keep at it Valerie, maybe you can drive a few more people to suicide. But even if you are successful in pushing someone to die prematurely, it’s not going to decrease the number of people who need to avoid toxic chemicals and need fragrance-free access to the world, an action that will actually improve everyone’s health, because fragranced products are toxic af and causing all kinds of other health problems in society.

Linda:
And to think Valerie’s tirade here is because she can’t bear the thought of fragrance-free soap and shampoo being the status quo. Mind boggling.

Valerie:
Listen, I’m not trying to be a keyboard warrior but that whole reply explains exactly why I stand by everything I’ve said. Take care Linda.

And that is what people with chemical and/or environmental sensitivities  have to deal with far too often, and when there’s no safe access to housing, showers, food, etc,  why some commit suicide after encountering  people like Valerie.

Human canaries need safe and dignified access to basic services too!

And it’s almost impossible to find an accessible, fragrance-free shower when one is living in a tent or a vehicle, as far too many people with MCS/ES end up having to do, for as long as they can hold it together.

Why are policies not being implemented or enforced? This is not a new need:

Environmental Sensitivities-Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Status Report: Advances in Knowledge, and Current Service Gaps 

~ Environmental Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto

“Homelessness is an extreme, sometimes life-threatening hardship for any person, but especially for someone who is ill.

Ontario has no sufficiently environmentally safe emergency shelters, where a person with moderate to severe ES-MCS can get away from acute chemical exposures quickly enough and stay long enough to recover from them in order to avoid health deterioration.

The necessary environmental accommodations are not available in the usual continuum of government-supported care and shelter for Ontarians, from urgent to acute to ongoing to assisted living to long term care.

Sufficiently environmentally-safe government-supported housing for those with moderate to severe ES-MCS is also as yet virtually unavailable.”

~ ES-MCS Status Report 2010-11,  page 33

 

Indeed, the need has been increasing every time anyone does any research.

And that is also why we still need Awareness Months, which are currently organized by whoever has any energy left after survival, as we don’t have dedicated organizations representing us.

I was going to add a number of media links  about people with MCS/ES who have been or are homeless, but decided against it. Enough of us know this is happening.

And this is why we need more of you speaking up and taking action to protect those who can’t protect themselves. No-one knows who could be next.

A bit more info on housing and homelessness here:

CBC News Hi-lights Accessibility Barriers to Housing for People With MCS/ES

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can drive sufferers into poverty as well as ill health

11 responses to “Homeless Canaries Need Access to Fragrance-Free Showers

  1. Linda Windforest

    Linda,
    Once again, thank you so much for advocating for some of the most disadvantaged among us. I am not homeless, but I live in a gutted house with no bathroom or water except for what I haul there or collect from the rain gutter when it rains. Before the pandemic hit I could use a public shower at least part time. I had to go when it wasn’t crowded (near closing and usually no-one else there, or nearly empty) or I would be hit with a barrage of scented shower products. Well, of course this facility is now closed. Even if there was a place offered to shower, I would not feel safe to go as I am at high risk from the coronavirus because of severe asthma and other pre-existing conditions.
    All said, even so I recently risked going to a laundromat after I have been trying to hand wash most of my clothes with rainwater. A friend offered to pay for my wash ( I did not have any money), so I decided to risk it. Usually I smell a whole row of washers, (yuck) and pick the least offensive one out of 12 to 20 washers. Get the clothes started and get outside. Even then I may have breathing problems or start to feel like I am coming down with the flu for up to the next 3 days from the exposure. After they are washed I always try to bring them home and dry outside on the clothesline until there is no more conscious smell noticeable. Well, this time I was wearing a mask and had on gloves. Since I had on the mask, I just picked the first washer, as I also didn’t want to be touching everything. Well apparently the mask blocked the washer smell, and I ended up with a double loader of probably some of the most contaminated wash I’ve ever had. It has been hanging outside in trees, shrubs, etc. ever since. Now it’s gotten cold here again and most of my warm clothes are too contaminated to wear for who knows how long.
    Well, life before the covid-19 was hard enough. Just keep on keepin’ on.
    Again, thanks for your voice, I don’t usually have internet access to speak up.

    • ((( <3 )))
      Far too relatable… and I wish that it won’t be so for much longer…
      People have been suffering too long, and too many new people are developing serious chronic illnesses from all the everyday toxic products and materials. It is not right for industries to be allowed to profit while causing so much harm.
      May your circumstances improve soon!

    • If you listed what city you lived in and what size of clothes … one of us may be able to help you not saying for sure but maybe …if you happened to be my size the clothes would at least not make you ill. I would not chance rewashing your clothes inside where I live as that would contaminate my living space. But I could drops some safe clean clothes off … maybe.. or maybe one of us could.
      I wish you safety and peace

      • Thanks Sandy, this has been tried before (at least as far as I am concerned)… Many people with good intentions, but a lack of awareness how cross contamination of products etc occurs and how many washes are needed…
        Maybe if the other Linda is up to trying, she can comment again, with what specifically she needs and could use, and what her washing protocol is.

  2. Byron Woolcock

    There was a recent time a “No Smoking” sign (enforced) would have been an impossible dream for countless people with many and varied illnesses, as well as the informed health pioneers who taught Prevention. This recent “dialogue” illustrates, yet once again, that simple and easily attainable health accommodations always require wisdom, courage and (most of all) Empathy and Compassion. Thank you again, Linda, for so much of all those traits and gifts I mentioned in my last sentence here.

    • Thank you Byron.

      I have a hard time understanding how human beings can live as if money made from harming others matters more than the lives they harm… and how they manipulate others to use products that harm others (as well as themselves)… See the GAIN commercial I posted about last year…

      Let’s hope we see some positive changes soon… Maybe all the people who develop MCS/ES from the toxic sanitizer and disinfectant use will roar louder than we’ve been able to…

  3. Fragrance free is one thing there are plenty of “fragrance free” soaps that I have extreme reactions to. They need to be chemicals that don’t smell make me as sick as smells… I learned that the hard way… lots of wasted money suffering … time waste being ill.
    So if your words cause this sort of response … I don’t stand a chance. I guess all the more reason to be silent and try to keep in the good graces of the people I live with I could not survive for long on the street. I am barely making it here.

    Thank you Linda!!!

  4. Of course your right Linda. Your conversation with the lady above proves how impotent conversations can be. It takes a certain amount of stamina and stability to go into that sort of information giving … turned debate attack and unwillingness to learn. I don’t have that amount of stamina or stability just now. Some day maybe I will. As you say they are counting on us never getting there as that would make for more warriors like yourself and changes they refuse to even consider. The awareness campaign of ads in busses ect that I read about on here never did materialize to my knowledge I think that would go a long way in promoting understanding. I am curious how to make that happen. Maybe people like the lady you talked with about showers would get a general understanding from signage that is hard to pass on when a crisis hits. Another issue for places like the one she works in is the disinfectant we can’t shower with a mask on. Finding some common ground on products that work for if not all then most of us could be one thing we could try to sort out. So when there is an incident like the showering safely… we can say maybe the majority of people find these products safe. I know this is very varied but maybe a survey of some sort of people who use this site would turn up some common ground. I personally can use nature clean shampoo but not the conditioner… I can use nature clean no scent liquid soap… I can use simply clean laundry detergent… and that is it. As for disinfection I have used the liquid nature clean peroxide must wear gloves and rinse several times watering it down would likely be smarter. If your wondering I do not work for any of these companies and would not dream of suggesting a product I made money from, not to this audience I don’t make money period so no worries there.
    Some days it just seems like too high a hill to climb so I need to break it down into something much smaller I can do. Like a survey… so next time something like this comes up suggestions can be made or on a larger scale making a ruckus to have all disinfectants and soaps changed in public places… first we have to know what is safest for most of us… if that does indeed exist they would love it if it didn’t… of that I am sure.

  5. Ultimately there needs to be a public health move like with smoking…

    For now we have this:

    Ontario Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability

    http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-ableism-and-discrimination-based-disability

    “inconvenience, morale, and preferences are not valid considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship”.

    The Code prescribes only three considerations when assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship:

    • cost
    • outside sources of funding, if any
    • health and safety requirements, if any.

    No other considerations can be properly taken into account under Ontario law.[239] Therefore, factors such as business inconvenience,[240] employee morale[241] and customer and third-party preferences[242] are not valid considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship. [243]

    To claim the undue hardship defence, the organization responsible for making the accommodation has the onus of proof.[244]

    It is not up to the person with a disability to prove that an accommodation can be accomplished without undue hardship.

    • and this

      The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s “Environmental sensitivity and scent-free policies”

      “A scent-free policy is similar to other workplace policies such as anti-harassment policies.”

      People who have allergies or sensitivity to certain products may have a bad reaction to a much lower level of chemicals, perfumes or environmental triggers than the average person.

      Their reaction is a medical condition. It is a recognized disability. People with allergies or environmental sensitivity are entitled to protection from its cause.

      The Canadian Human Right Act protects people with allergies or environmental sensitivities, like any other disability.

      Employers and service providers must ensure that their facilities are accessible and safe. In the case of environmental sensitivities, this means:

      • reducing the use of chemicals;
      • having a scent-free policy;

      https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/policy-environmental-sensitivities

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