LA officials ‘impressed’ by number of homeless residents using new public bathrooms

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A pilot program to open public restrooms for the homeless has been so successful that the city is considering extending it for another year.

The board of public works voted Monday to continue the Mobile Pit Stop Program, which has brought eight public toilets to neighborhoods with high unsheltered homeless populations.

The vote serves as a recommendation, and if ultimately approved by the Los Angeles City Council, will extend the six-month pilot to July 31, 2019.

The first Mobile Pit Stop Program toilets opened in March in response to a 2017 Hepatitis A outbreak that was attributed to a long-standing lack of public restrooms available to people who live on the streets. The shortage most often results in homeless people using the streets and sidewalks to defecate and urinate.

Councilmember Jose Huizar, who has three locations of the pilot in his district, said in a statement that the program is “vital” in helping people access “safe, clean toilets.”

In just a short amount of time, the progress has been notable. A representative for the city administrative officer told the board: “The bathrooms are being highly utilized. We’ve been impressed with the usage.”

The toilets are staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by attendants who not only maintain the restrooms but also “enforce courtesy rules to ensure individuals do not misuse the facilities.”

The addition of attendants is key, and their impact is most clear at three of the pilot’s locations at Sixth and Gladys streets and Fifth and Los Angeles streets in Skid Row, and Vermont and Santa Monica in East Hollywood.

These toilets were already in place—they are the green public toilet kiosks that are permanently attached to the street—but before the pilot, they were not staffed.

Since the addition of attendants to these locations, the use of these toilets has increased dramatically.

In the first four months of the pilot, toilet visits increased 75 percent at the Fifth and Los Angeles locations compared to the average visits for six months prior, rising from an average of 60 visits a day to more than 100.

At the Sixth and Gladys location, average daily visits increased from about 30 visits a day to 80—a 163 percent increase—according to a report prepared by public works staffers and the city administrative officer.

The other five locations of the pilot program take the form of portable, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms with sinks.

These toilets are removed each night for cleaning and replaced in the morning at their locations at 38th and Grand in Historic South-Central; on the 500 block of Broad Avenue in Wilmington; at Alvarado and Bellevue in Westlake; at 15th Street and Griffin in the Fashion District; and at the Rose Avenue parking lot in Venice. (Unlike the others, the Venice location stays open overnight).

In the months since the program began, the Wilmington location has been the most heavily used, averaging nearly 75 visits per day.

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