With the city facing an outbreak of hepatitis A, the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan Friday to create a system of portable restrooms to help address the problem.
Councilman Mike Bonin recently introduced a motion seconded by Councilman Jose Huizar that calls on the city to begin the steps of creating the system, and it was approved with a vote of 11-0.
“Without access to the basic right of a restroom, people living on the streets are at a significantly increased risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis A that are spread through human feces,” the motion states.
The motion directs city staff to start developing a program of portable public restrooms possibly modeled after the “Pit Stop” program in San Francisco.
The motion also seeks a report on available funding sources for emergency portable restrooms, as well as the bathroom attendants required to operate them.
It also directs the city attorney to report on the city’s laws regarding the placement of portable restrooms in designated locations, including city- owned parking lots.
“Opening additional public restrooms faces two challenges: funding and proper locations,” the motion says.
“Best practices indicate public restrooms should be staffed by attendants to keep the facilities clean and free of criminal activity. And even if adequate funding were available, there remains a lack of adequate space in our dense neighborhoods to place restrooms without encroaching in the public right-of-way.”
The Pit Stop Program is a partnership between Bay Area Rapid Transit and the city of San Francisco that provides portable public toilets at 17 locations.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease that can spread easily through homeless populations because it thrives in unsanitary conditions and is primarily spread through contact with feces via surfaces or sexual contact.
Reports of the disease among the homeless have spiked in recent months in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Cruz, causing Los Angeles County to declare an official outbreak in September.
The motion was approved two days after activists attempted to deliver a pair of toilets to the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and also occupied stalls in two City Hall restrooms for several hours in an attempt to bring awareness to the lack of restrooms in Skid Row.
A report released in June found there are only nine public toilets available at night in the Skid Row neighborhood, where roughly 1,800 homeless people sleep.
The lack of toilets is worse than refugees in Syria are experiencing and violate the United Nations standards of hygiene, according to the “No Place to Go” report prepared by homeless advocacy groups, including the Los Angeles Central Providers Collaborative, Los Angeles Community Action Network and the Downtown Women’s Center.
–City News Service
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