It wasn't too long ago that the City of Tucson shut down Veinte de Agosto park over public health concerns from the Pima County Health Department.
The park for years has been occupied on-and-off by many of Tucson's homeless residents who congregate downtown. There aren't any bathrooms outdoors, so naturally the area eventually flooded with human waste. (That, as well as allegations of drug sales and other offenses, resulted in the city to close the park.)
Although the issue of outdoor bathrooms is constantly brought up in discussions about homelessness, not much has been done to make portable restrooms available to people who don't have a roof over their head. Until that's done, they will continue to have no option but urinate and defecate on the streets and parks. What would you do?
Miami recently installed portable bathrooms for its homeless population to use free of charge, and incidents with "open defecation" have decreased by 57 percent in six months, according to The Huffington Post
The Pit Stop program, which cost the city $500,000 has made a lot of residents happy. But Miami homeless rights advocacy group Miami-Dade Homeless Trust told the HuffPost that this is a temporary fix to the issue, and that could create excuses to keep people on the streets, particularly those who are chronically homeless, rather than focusing on housing.
“If I’m making it easier for them to be on the streets, then I’m making it more difficult for my outreach staff to coax chronic homeless people off of the streets,” Ron Book, chair of the Homeless Trust, told The Huffington Post in May. “It makes an excuse for them to stay on the streets. I’m not into excuses.”
The portable restrooms are available downtown from 2 p.m. to around 9 p.m., the HuffPost says. The program was influenced by concerns from local business owners—a very similar situation to what we have in Tucson between the homeless and the downtown merchants.
At the latest meeting the City of Tucson hosted to talk homelessness (these have been happening on a semi-monthly basis thanks to Councilman Richard Fimbres since October, and it brings together Pima County, business representatives, homeless outreach workers, and houseless people to discuss solutions), Deputy Tucson City Manager Martha Durkin said installing "state-of-the-art bathrooms" would cost the city roughly between $60.000 to $140,000.
It would be a good investment, and options to make it more affordable for the city should be explored.
There would be no more health woes over human waste, and it's a step closer to restoring respect and dignity for our fellow community members.