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City Council Revisits Public Restroom Accessibility Issues Amid Hepatitis A Epidemic

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SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento City Council is poised to revisit the issue of portable restrooms for the homeless after a hepatitis A epidemic in Southern California.

It’s something homeless people think about every day several times a day, where to relieve themselves, especially when businesses are closed or not accommodating. The problem has plagued Sacramento for 30 years.

The recent outbreak of hepatitis A, which has killed 17 people and hospitalized 337 people, has heightened the alarm.

It’s spread by people who use the bathroom and don’t wash their hands and then handle food or other objects.

Last year City Council member Jeff Harris sponsored a six month experiment with his pit stop toilet in a homeless area that came with an attendant, but it proved too expensive. Still, it was used 25,000 times.

“Where do you think those people… a lot of it was public defecation and urination," Harris said. "It cost thousands of dollars to clean up."

Harris says public restrooms are needed by the general public as well.

“We’ve never really figured out how to maintain them," said Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen.

Cost of repairing trashed toilets is a huge concern for Hansen. While many businesses allow the homeless to use their restrooms, he cites one midtown incident.

“Let a homeless person use the restroom and that person broke the water pipes and flooded the business, causing $20,000 in damage," he reported.

Many of the homeless say 24-hour restrooms would be welcome.

Now Harris says he’s going to put a plan before the City Council that will still cost, because it involves attendants to make sure there is no vandalism. He says the plan will be cheaper than his pit stop experiment and will be worth it to improve the quality of life for everyone.