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Posted on: April 10, 2019 at 10:06 pm
Last updated: April 25, 2019 at 8:58 pm

Going by this map, you might think that San Francisco is literally covered in human feces. Developed by a data company known as Open the Books, the ‘poop map’ shows a concentration of all the street defecation incidents reported in San Francisco in the past 8 years [1]. Each brown pin-point represents one out of the 118,000 cases reported.

As reported by Business Insider, the City’s toilet problems hotline (311) receives about 65 calls every day from people who want to report street defecation instances [2]. Between January 1 and August 13 last year, they received a total of 14,597 calls. A Reddit user actually reported sighting a 20-pound bag (someone weighed it?) of human waste lying in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco [3]. It’s unimaginable. From the headlines, a situation like this may sound humorous, but unfortunately, the root causes of the issue are not.

Why is San Francisco the new poop city of America?

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It’s important to mention that while you would think there is no justification for defecating outside of the proper facilities, there actually is, at least a little.  

You see, homelessness and lack of affordable housing provisions are the major reasons for San Francisco’s trouble with human waste. Statistics show that as of 2017, there were 7,499 homeless people in San Francisco, 69% of whom claimed they had had homes in the city prior to experiencing homeless [4]. Housing in the coastal city is costly, with the lowest price of a decent studio apartment tagged around $2,500 per month [5]. Development is sweeping through the city at a fast pace. Commercialization and industrialization require more building and infrastructure. Homeless encampments are regularly cleared away by the city for building projects to take place.

If those experiencing homelessness don’t have a place to lay their heads, who expects them to have a place to relieve themselves?  Also, many of them have trouble becoming employed and making a living. Not having an address is one of the main reasons, but many also suffer from mental health problems and addiction to drugs and alcohol [4].

Of course, those experiencing homelessness are not the only ones doing this. The city, in general, is desperately lacking access to public restroom facilities [5]. It’s not a new trend for business buildings to restrict restroom access to only customers and clients. A city of approximately 885,000 people will definitely need public toilet access, especially the densely populated areas. Although insightful and commendable, the recent installation of 25 high-tech self-cleaning toilets around the city is not adequate for the population.

Top ten neighborhood plagued by the poop menace:

The top 10 neighborhoods with the highest records of poop incident reports are: 

  • Tenderloin
  • South of Market
  • Mission
  • Civic Center
  • Mission Dolores
  • Lower Nob Hill
  • Potrero Hill
  • Showplace Square
  • North Beach
  • Financial District

How dangerous is this health hazard?

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Infections can be transmitted through contact with fecal matter. Outside of the rather unpleasant smell, when fecal matter dries it can become airborne and possibly spread disease. In 2017, an outbreak of hepatitis A in Los Angeles was linked to a lack of accessible toilets for the city’s 50,000+ homeless population [6]. Other diseases caused by the transmission of fecal matter include diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, polio, and cryptosporidiosis [7].

There are some in the city are attempting to address the problem with what is colloquially being    “Poop Patrol.” However, this is only in the neighborhood of Tenderloin. This has become a key issue for San Fransico’s mayor, London Breed. With the city’s growing homeless population, lack of public toilets, and rising housing costs, there is much to be done.

 

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