Ever wonder where homeless people go to the bathroom? Well in San Francisco it’s reported that among their chosen spots are stairwells and escalators at Bay Area Rapid Transit Stations.
I live far from the madding crowd at the north end of the Sacramento Valley in Northern California, but we have the homeless as well. Many of them seem to hang out at the public library. Who only knows where they relieve themselves. Sure, they probably use the library facilities when it is open, along with those at nearby convenience markets, I suppose — but store owners don’t like people using their places as public restrooms, especially if they are not buying anything, and that is understandable. And the stores might not be open late at night when nature calls.
The problem in San Francisco is so bad that human excrement reportedly clogs up the works of the escalators. And of course the stench is unpleasant for the general public too. And of course this has to be a health hazard.
I did visit San Francisco some days ago and was pleased that the homeless and panhandlers did not seem to be the nuisance they had been in the past, but maybe I just lucked out and walked in the right places. I did see several homeless under sleeping bags along one street, though.
The problem with rousting the homeless is that they just move somewhere else and become a problem at that somewhere else.
Personally I think it is a tragedy that there are so many homeless, realizing that in some cases people choose that lifestyle.
But I think the homeless are a terrible blight on any city, big or small. And they present a definite health hazard.
I have mentioned this before, but years ago, in the 1980s, as I recall, Sacramento County tried to tie public assistance to living in a public shelter for people without their own residence. And as I recall the courts held that one could not be forced to live in any certain place. In essence, you have a right to be homeless.
Whenever the homeless are put up in public shelters there are security concerns. Many homeless people, maybe most, would rather be homeless than be forced to live with strangers who might well be violent or thieves or both.
But I think society has a moral duty to look out for the homeless and it is the only practical thing to do, especially when health and security and aesthetics for the quality of life for all of us is considered.
You might have a right to be homeless but you should not have a right to, well, crap where the rest of us have to walk.
I for one would support the building of public shelters, simple spartan affairs, where people can be protected from the elements.
Perhaps one cannot be forced to live in a shelter, but public benefits should only go to those who are at least willing to be a part of civilized society.
With all the cutbacks in public agencies we have been hearing about, this is probably not going to happen, but it seems to me there ought to be more gatekeepers in the public assistance system and more serious counseling available.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental health, physical health, and pure economics and the cruel realities of life are probably beyond help.
But we need to do the best we can and we need to encourage the down and out to do the same.
It seems ironic that those with no resources often smoke and abuse alcohol and drugs. That is terribly expensive and who really pays the bills for all that?
And I will sound like Scrooge or something, but the thing now I see is for many of the down and out to have pets. Taking care of them is expensive too.
But if nothing else, can we at least come up with a way of discouraging the using of public places where we all have to walk as toilets? Maybe the answer is to install Porta Potties all over the place (yes, I know, they have to be serviced and that is not free).
It is not just the homeless who have poor hygiene and personal habits. I am a long-haul truck driver, and there is an element among us, small, I would hope, who sometimes leave excrement right on the pavement of a truck stop or public road — I’m not talking someone taking a leak, I mean, well, excrement, sometimes in a bag and sometimes not, and then there are the discarded pee bottles and plastic bags (the latter used by women?).