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Seattle man connects with his homeless neighbors, one toilet at a time

A brand-new toilet set-up at an ecampment near Interstate 90 and Rainier Avenue.
Gabriel Spitzer
A brand-new toilet set-up at an ecampment near Interstate 90 and Rainier Avenue.

This story originally aired on June 8, 2019.

Mark Lloyd pops his trunk and pulls out his supplies: kitty litter, a small military surplus tent, toilet paper, sanitizer and a 5-gallon plastic bucket, complete with toilet seat.

This is the rudimentary toilet set-up that Mark has been assembling and delivering to homeless encampments for about three years now. He guesses he’s given away between 75 and 100.

“It's something people need, and I can fill it,” he says. “You really can only do good when you provide people a more sanitary situation than they were.”

Mark started doing this when he saw encampments popping up and spreading in his Judkins Park neighborhood. He felt compelled to wade right in, get to know the people and see what they needed. The answer, judging by the litter on the ground, was pretty clear.

“In many ways we're a very prosperous city," Mark says, "but we have people living in tents, in camps, that have no working sanitation."

Mark is not a professional activist or social worker — he’s a software guy by day. He isn’t affiliated with any particular group or nonprofit, and he doesn’t seek donations: he does all of this with his own money, on his own time.

On this day, he is dropping by several of the camps that have sprung up around the Interstate 90 on-ramps at Rainier Avenue in Seattle. One of his stops is to meet with a young woman named Megan, who says she’s been living in the area for a year and a half. Mark is delivering her a replacement toilet, as well as a sharps container for used needles.

“It makes a huge difference,” Megan says. “Without that were having to squat in the bushes and no privacy whatsoever and  people come around the corner and see you. It’s really, really invasive. With these things there's, like, privacy, and I know I’ve had way less (urinary tract infections) and stuff like that because of it. It makes it a lot better for us.”

Mark says it’s gratifying to help people live in a healthier setting, and take care of the basic biological needs with dignity. But, he says, toilets are really just the first step.

“I really like giving out toilets and feeling like I’m doing something there, but I feel the most value when I’ve been able to help someone out who I’ve gotten to know,” he says. “You know, taking someone to the hospital, talking to them about getting them maybe into drug treatment, connecting them with people that I know with the city to get them into housing.” 


Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.