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:
Toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, and more provided.
Free showers & washrooms
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:
Is the soap and shampoo fragrance-free so that people with environmental ‘sensitivities’ could also access the space?
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
“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.”
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….
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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;
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.
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?
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.
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?
Linda nope but I have nothing left to say to you because walking in circles is boring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: