Toilets On Wheels Aid Sanitation In San Francisco

Mobile bathrooms on wheels are now brought into the area four afternoons per week, and they have proved to be a roaring success. Officials from other cities such as Portland, Honolulu and New York have inquired about them, writes Olga R. Rodriguez for the Associated Press.

A new initiative for a troubled part of town

The Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco has a reputation for crime, homelessness and poverty, but the sanitary situation has improved with the introduction of the solar-powered units, which are guarded by attendants.

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Two portable toilets with sinks are mounted on a trailer and towed in using pickup trucks from Tuesday-Friday, and placed in three spots close to soup kitchens and parks which attract large numbers of people. The units are in service from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m..

The bathrooms are staffed by attendants who work for a nonprofit contracted by San Francisco authorities. Their role is to make sure the toilets are clean and stocked with the essentials.

A group of students from a nearby private Catholic school were responsible for inspiring the program. A number of youngsters wrote poems to San Francisco officials detailing the problems with human feces and syringes in the area.

Complaints reduced by scheme

As well as the normal bathroom facilities, there are also containers for used syringes and trash cans for other waste. One attendant was even seen sweeping the area and picking up used syringes with tongs. The attendants are crucial to the success of the program, ensuring that they are not misused as other public bathrooms in San Francisco have been.

Before the program was implemented in July, there were an average of 27 calls per day requesting that feces and urine be cleaned from the sidewalks. That number has now dropped to around 15 per day.

Any roll out of the scheme to other areas of San Francisco is dependent on funds allocated by officials. Each bathroom costs approximately $100,000 per year per station. Officials are also planning to place attendants at 25 automated public bathrooms which were installed in the 1990s, but are rarely used because they are so dirty.