Guide to Pissing Decently in Market Square.

sticker design
My collaborators

I think cities highlight capitalist contradictions the most. They have the most concentrated employment opportunities but the least affordable rent. When cities “rebuild” suffering areas it is not to the benefit of the current residents but rather to draw in wealthier replacements. Cities, especially Pittsburgh, house the CEOs and the homeless alike.

Market Square is a neat little microcosm of this. Plenty of different people hang around Market Square, especially the homeless with nowhere else to go. Market Square is a brick-road roundabout surrounded on all sides by titan chains: Starbucks, Chipotle, Moe’s, Noodles & Company, Five Guys, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc. The chains are pretty aware of the homeless population, seen as their bathrooms are only accessible with a number code. Despite being a minor inconvenience to patrons, bathroom codes are mainly intended to prohibit non-paying customers from using the facilities. Gestures like this make you think of the spiraling madness of capitalist ideals. The fact that homeless people are considered vermin and must be kept from using a public toilet, further stripping their dignity. Why are they homeless in the first place? If a customer must pay to use a restroom, why shouldn’t everyone afford a $4.00 coffee? The towering PPC building just outside of market square is scathing. It towers over us, and spits in the face of the people of the sidewalk.

It was time to start publishing those bathroom codes. It’s not much. It does not put food in their bellies nor give them a home, but it just possibly tears away some of the embarrassment and ridicule that these number pads invoke.

I made graffiti stickers to get the most coverage. They were placed around Market Square where homeless people would most likely see them, though I understand I am making certain assumptions that I may not be equipt to make: Free newspaper stands, bus stops, poles, alleys, corners, cigarette dispenser stands. To get even more coverage, in less time and with less suspicion, I had some help from local high school students and members of Students for Progessive Action. (SFPA) Rachel Wilder, Marie Kaminski, and Heyd Reyes assisted in placing the stickers around the area. We all split up and spread out so they were not concentrated to one area.

There was one element of this project that was not a complete success. One of the places I took a code from (Chipotle) has a bit more of an advanced code system. The day I posted the stickers, I checked in the shops to see if any changes were made. Chipotle’s code had already changed. They use a system where the code is printed at the bottom of your purchase receipt, and changes consistently (Every week? Every day?) The other shops were still the same. It is now a question of whether seeing these stickers will cause any change henceforth. I think if the other shops were to change the codes, it would further reveal their anti-homeless agenda. Perhaps maybe people would take notice more.

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