San Francisco is home to roughly 7,000 homeless residents, and, just like the rest of us, those individuals need to use the restroom. Instead of griping about this fact and blaming the homeless for lacking a private space to engage in a basic human act — resulting in individuals being forced to defecate on the city's streets and sidewalks — the Examiner reports that several Minerva University students are petitioning the city to install 10 additional self-cleaning toilets in the Tenderloin.
"Doing some research into public restrooms around San Francisco reveals that, though there are a significant number of public restrooms, in the areas most affected by homelessness, there are few to none," the petition reads. "Being homeless means a lack of consistent access to restrooms, and often being turned away at customer only establishments for which they do not have the money. This can result in public urination/defection and inadequate personal hygiene, to which everyone should have a right."
San Franciscans have a complicated relationship with the city's 25 public toilets. Installed in 1995, the Chronicle reported back in 2011 that the Parisian-style, enclosed bathrooms frequently lacked consistent maintenance from their operator, JCDecaux, and were often found to be filthy and used for purposes outside of their intended use (think drug use and prostitution). It was hoped that a 2015 plan to employ "potty-sitters" to watch over and maintain the toilets would help to turn things around, and at present the Pit Stop program maintains 13 of the toilets and has been deemed a success by the city.
”The more Pit Stops we open, the more places people have a safe, secure and clean place to go,” SF Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru explained in a press release last summer. “Since the Pit Stop began - with the strong support of Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors - we have seen a steady increase in usage and a reduction in steam cleaning requests."
Assuming this program could be expanded to include any new toilets — which, given the program cost reported by the Chronicle of roughly $1 million per year, is not a given — additional toilets in areas known to have a high concentration of homeless residents seems like a no-brainer.
At present, the over 15,000 people who have signed the petition seem to agree.
Related: The Best Public Restrooms In SF