Why do Bathrooms Matter?

By Eric Burger

Generally, rescue missions keep bathrooms clean and functional, but don’t usually rank them high on the list of priorities for design and ambiance. Shelter KC just completed a $1,500,000 renovation, which included $400,000 towards restroom renovations and upgrades. That probably sounds like a major investment, and I agree! We went from very institutional open bathroom/showers, very similar to a middle school or prison locker room. Our new bathrooms look more like a health club with tile walls, fully partitioned privacy booths for toilets and showers, and a separate changing area. (Click here for before and after pictures.) Why does this matter?

We host guests who have experienced trauma in institutional spaces, so we engaged with a Trauma-Informed Design process to create spaces that don’t trigger memories from those traumas. Since most tours don’t include a peek at the bathrooms, our mission guests and residents often get the message that we only spend that kind of money and effort on the places we show our donors and visitors. But when the places we’ve created just for our guests look equally as warm and inviting, we send the message that we also value them. Coming from the indignity of living on the streets, where they may have to make do with using a doorway or public space as a toilet, the dignity of privacy speaks. A beautiful, safe, and private bathroom does matter.

Click here to learn more about the Trauma-Informed Design process fueling the Transformations Campaign at Shelter KC.

Eric Burger serves as the CEO at Shelter KC (Kansas City, Missouri) and has worked at several different rescue missions over the last 38 years. He currently holds an At-Large position on the Citygate Network board.

The 300+ organizations in Citygate Network membership seek to move people in desperate situations and destitute conditions (i.e., hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted) from human suffering to human flourishing through the process of gospel-powered life transformation. If you or someone you love is in need of Christ-centered compassion and care, please visit our member locator page today to find a mission near you.

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