Toilets on wheels help keep San Francisco clean Clean City attendant Erica Corona, left, watches as Sabrina Hollier walks up a step to use a public toilet at the Tenderloin Pit Stop in San Francisco (AP photos)
Toilets on wheels help keep San Francisco clean
Lexile

Streets in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood are blocks away from the fancy stores and long lines of tourists waiting for cable cars. They are now cleaner. This has happened since solar-powered toilets began rolling in.

The mobile bathrooms on wheels are guarded by attendants. The bathrooms have been successful. In fact, city officials say Portland, Oregon, Honolulu and New York have inquired about them. These cities are seeking solutions for similar sanitation problems.

Supporters of the portable pit stops say having public bathrooms accessible has made the neighborhood more livable. The area has been known for crime, homelessness and poverty.

"Everyone has to go to the bathroom. That's not something anyone can stop," said Jane Kim. She is a San Francisco supervisor. Her district includes the Tenderloin neighborhood. "This program affords people some dignity to take care of a human need."

Two portable toilets with sinks mounted on a trailer are hauled in by pickup trucks. They are moved in each Tuesday through Friday. They are placed in three spots. Those spots are near soup kitchens and park areas. It is where large clusters of people often are attracted. The toilets are dropped off at 2 p.m. They are taken out at 9 p.m. Then they are cleaned.

The city pays attendants to make sure the portable toilets stay sanitary. They keep them stocked with toilet paper, air freshener, soap, paper towels and seat covers. They also give users a courtesy knock after five minutes.

Kaven Harris, 54, said before the toilets were brought in, he was forced to go to the bathroom in parking lots. He would hide between cars.

"If this pit stop weren't here, I would be in a parking lot," said Harris. He is an Army veteran. Harris has been living on the streets about six months. "There is no place to use the bathroom if you're homeless and don't have money."

The pilot program was inspired by a group of students at De Marillac Academy. It is a private Catholic school in the neighborhood. They read poems to city officials about their struggles growing up in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

"You had to be cautious and you had to be looking at the floor to make sure you didn't step on poop," student Karina Bonilla, 14, said. "But not anymore!"

On a recent afternoon, an attendant locked the bathrooms when there were no customers. The attendant swept the nearby area.

The success of the pilot program is largely due to the employees who make sure the bathrooms are not misused. That has happened with other public bathrooms, said Mohammed Nuru. He is the city's public works department director.

"We have seen huge success with staffing these facilities and making them decent for people," Nuru said.

Since the program started in July, requests for cleaning feces and urine off of sidewalks also have dropped. The requests have gone from an average of 27 calls per weekday to about 15, Nuru said.

There are plans to set up more mobile bathrooms in other neighborhoods. Each costs the city about $100,000 per year per station. However, officials have to allocate funds first. There are also plans to assign attendants to the 25 automated public bathrooms first installed 20 years ago throughout the city. They are so dirty that they are rarely used for their original purpose, Nuru said.

"The streets have been cleaner and smells aren't so bad," said Britney Pirring. She is a 13-year-old student at De Marillac Academy. "Now my brother and I can take our time on the streets walking to school."

Critical thinking challenge: How do the attendants contribute to the success of this initiative?

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COMMENTS (8)
  • KeaganB-1
    4/16/2015 - 10:32 p.m.

    In San Francisco's less nice cities they have put in solar panel and porta potty's. These bathrooms are on wheels. City officials say Portland Oregon Honolulu in New York have talk to them about getting some. They are using is porta potty's to treat sanitation if you use.these Porta potty's are usually put in the poor hearts of town. Article is very interesting and I think that they probably need to move the Porta potty's in LA

  • LeslieS-Ver
    4/17/2015 - 09:13 a.m.

    They think its a really good idea because theirs alot of homeless people that need to go to the restroom but they dont have anywere to go. i personally think its a good idea but they have to clean it more often so no one gets sick. They gotta sanitize it really good cause alot of people have infections, but i think its a great idea

  • VanessaC-3
    4/19/2015 - 06:23 p.m.

    How can that be a system that involves toilets on the road? What would be people feel like if its the right thing to have by being resourceful around the community and changing lives of San Fransisco by doing business on the road. It would not be worth living for. Especially on the road it being stinky and lumpy on the road not being a perfect life in hand. In my opinion it should be that toilets are to do it in a place where there is other toilets to let it be just toilets and making it more comfortable and not discomfortable for you have to have a place where you can go to the bathroom and there are no differences about keeping it clean. If its just the same thing making it more messy and dirty through all times.

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/21/2015 - 07:42 p.m.

    I think those toilets on wheels are very useful to the city because it does really keep the streets of San Francisco clean. The streets are going to be out of nasty pee and poo and it would actually kind of tell people about manners and not to pee or poo outside on the street with pretty much everyone seeing you. That would be unhealthy, dirty, unnatural, and rude too. But whoever made that design must have really thought well because she/he is doing whatever natural thing to do to save the world. I think that toilets on those wheels are also helpful because if people need to use the restroom so badly, then they don't have to hurry back home to go pee or poo, they just stop by quickly in the toilet on those truck-like vehicles (which contains the toilets) and then use the restroom.
    Critical Thinking Challenge: How do the attendants contribute to the success of this initiative?
    Answer: They want to help keep the streets of San Francisco clean and not nasty. They want people to use the restrooms more easier, and more cleaner and healthier, unlike getting millions of germs by peeing behind cars or anything like that.

  • sarah009
    4/22/2015 - 12:12 p.m.

    I think the port potties on wheels are great idea. If they stay clean then people will want to use them and it will be easier than finding a building with a bathroom. Also, since there are a lot of homeless people in big cities it would give them a place to go to the restroom.

  • CristianC-Saw
    4/27/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    I think that's a really good idea because a lot of people who have to use the restroom

  • kyrap-boo
    4/28/2015 - 12:06 p.m.

    To ensure that there is no restroom misuse, attendants have been hired to keep an eye on the bathrooms. They have helped in making it successful by not allowing them to be mistreated, or vandalized or any of those things.

  • shathak-pay
    9/14/2015 - 11:19 a.m.

    Relly weird.I never new that.

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