The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a recommendation Friday that a mobile restroom program be extended for nearly one year and expanded to three more locations.
The program was approved in late 2017 in reaction to the outbreak of hepatitis A in the city and other parts of the state among the homeless population, as the disease is often spread in unsanitary conditions.
Mobile Pit Stop Program locations have been placed in parts of the city with high concentrations of homeless, including Skid Row and Venice. Seven of the eight portable toilets and hand-washing stations went into operation in March, with the eighth beginning in July. Seven of the locations are open seven days a week for 12 hours during the daytime, while the Venice location is open for eight hours overnight.
“Access to safe and sanitary restroom facilities is not just about human necessity, it is about human dignity,” Councilman Jose Huizar said. “The Mobile Pit Stop Program provides a vital service to an underserved and vulnerable population. It has proven successful and must continue.”
The program consists of five mobile toilets with attendants and three automatic public toilets where attendants have been placed.
A report from the City Administrative Officer cited the program as a success, with many of the sites reporting a significant daily usage increase between March and June. Two of the locations also do needle collection, and as of June 30, had collected over 4,000 used needles, according to the report.
“We have been impressed with the success of the program and the increase in usage rates. The addition of attendants has been a game-changer,” Board of Public Works President Kevin James said. “Council’s approval will serve to extend a program that is fulfilling one of the most essential needs and providing a human element at the street level. We’re another step closer to ensuring toilet facilities are available for all homeless individuals in Los Angeles.”
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, credited Councilman Mike Bonin for pushing for the creation of the program when the committee approved the extension last month. Bonin is also on the committee and introduced the original motion in September that led to the program.
“Props to Mr. Bonin who has been fighting for these types of services and the availability of these services broadly for as long as I can remember, and to hear them come to fruition and done in such a way that we know how many people are actually using the bathroom on a daily basis and what a difference it makes to have a human being there,” Harris-Dawson said. “Again, common sense that’s been validated by data.”
The program was initially funded by the City Council for six months and was set to expire in August, but the council approved its extension through the end of July 2019 for a total cost of around $2.3 million, plus an additional $420,000 to add attendants to three more automatic public toilets in the downtown area. The funds cover the cost of staffing the locations with attendants and renting the toilets at the mobile locations or other needed equipment.