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Sacramento Explores Portable Flush Toilets for Homeless

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SACRAMENTO --

The Sacramento City Council was set to approve the first step in setting up a pilot project that would provide a portable flush toilet staffed by an attendant for the homeless.

The program is patterned after the successful "Pit Stop" toilets set up in 11 locations in San Francisco. It's championed by council member Jeff Harris, whose district encompasses the River District, which is home to homeless services, but few restrooms, especially when the shelters close.

"You can't turn a blind eye ... people use the streets to relieve themselves, which is completely untenable, not for a workable city," said Harris.

Some business groups are against mobile toilets near them because they feel it will attract the homeless. But Harris says that shouldn't be a concern given the clean-up costs and health risks.

"It's unlikely people are going to walk a mile because they know there's a commode available," said Harris.

In San Francisco, the paid attendants clean the units and make sure they're not used for drug activity, prostitution or are vandalized.

They've drawn praise by homeless people and neighborhood residents alike. And Harris says the units are used by everyone, not just the homeless.

The City Council will approve the search for a vendor to provide the units and staff them, which could cost up to $100,000 for a yearlong trial.

Harris says a test location might be the industrial area near North A Street where there are many homeless people.