In response to a lack of public restrooms on Skid Row and an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Los Angeles, City Councilman Jose Huizar has introduced a motion to secure nearly $1.87 million in funding to establish a temporary hygiene center in the neighborhood.

The lack of toilets is worse than refugees in Syria are experiencing and violates 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.

The City Council has been moving forward with a plan to bring temporary or portable restrooms to Skid Row ever since reports of Hepatitis A among the homeless spiked in recent months in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Cruz, causing Los Angeles County to declare an official outbreak in September.

“Access to safe, clean toilets and a hot shower are a basic human right,” Huizar said. “This will be more than a hygiene center. Our aim is to give the residents of Skid Row a sense of hope and dignity.”

Under the motion, the city would open a hygiene center in December at 557-559 Crocker St., a city-owned property scheduled for development as permanent supportive housing by the Weingart Center. The center would be open on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings with security, and as staffing increases, be open 24/7 with security around the clock.

The $1.87 million would cover the cost of operating the center through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2018, and the motion also includes a request for proposals for continued operations beyond June.

The temporary center would provide public toilets, showers and laundry services as well as supportive and community engagement services. Funding for the center would be from the city’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget and savings from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority 2016-2017 budget.

The project would be managed by Homeless Healthcare Los Angeles with assistance from Goodwill Industries, Social Model Recovery Systems and We Team Security Services.

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.

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.

–City News Service

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