Public restrooms in an East Village park have been mostly locked for months, even while a hepatitis A outbreak fueled in part by lacking hygiene has plagued homeless San Diegans.
Pinnacle International developed two high-rises bordering Fault Line Park, agreeing years ago to build and maintain the park and restrooms in exchange for perks including the right to build more apartments in the towers and a garage underneath the park.
The restrooms have been a problem since they opened, as inewsource reported last year. Homeless people have settled at the edge of the park, and city officials, Pinnacle staff and owners of the restaurant that houses the bathrooms have described near-constant safety hazards, including a stabbing that some restaurant workers witnessed.
“They basically got used all the time for drug use and prostitution and crime,” said John Long, whose restaurant Stella Public House oversees the restrooms for the developer.
Long, the city and the developer said they decided last fall to ensure safety by locking the restroom doors and requiring visitors to walk into the restaurant to get a key. The restaurant had previously just kept them closed.
In the months since, homeless people who visit or regularly settle at Fault Line Park say they’ve gotten the message the restrooms still aren’t open to them. The number of people gathering at the park between J Street and Island Avenue has grown, and more homeless children spend time there. One afternoon last month, several young children roamed or sat with their parents, belongings in tow, paces away from the locked restrooms.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
On the bright side: the restrooms at this park were unlocked and available on Aug. 23.
Still- this is a horrifying healthcare crisis. In 2015 a total of 67 people died of #HepA in the entire US. San Diego is now on track to have over 25% of the nation's total deaths.
Source and weekly updates of local illnesses: http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/community_epidemiology/dc/Hepatitis_A.html
They shouldn't be allowed to live on the streets or parks of San Diego.
Just another reason to set up camps for the homeless.
Talk about a behavior with deadly consequences! The city has continually worked against resolving the public health issue of places for poor people to use public restrooms and clean handwashing facilities for decades. Just look into the 24-hour public restrooms at third and C. to my understanding the city only created those once they were sued. And I don't know any homeless individuals who believe that a private establishment is just going to open their bathroom doors when anyone asks. Talk about a Trust issue… As far as crime goes, is the kind of crime that had it closed in the first place similar to the crime purportedly being committed at the Portland Loo by the library? If I remember right the rumors of crime turned out to be untrue in the end after the Loo was removed.
And what happened to the city's promise of four such Portland Loos? Isn't that why the porta pottys by God's Extended Hand were taken out? In the 14 years that I have worked with people who do not have homes the single biggest problem from the community at large has been about homeless people urinating and defecating in public. Why would the city then work against itself or the community either for that matter? Unless that's not the real underlying issue for them.
Thank you Lisa for clear and honest reporting.
To put San Diego's 11 hepatitis-related deaths into context:
In 2015, a total of 67 people died of hepatitis in the entire United States.
This means, at the current rate, San Diego may see nearly 1/3 of total annual hepatitis deaths for the entire nation by the end of the year. Yet- according to the Center for Disease Control- Hepatitis A cases have been steadily declining in the US since 2000. (see: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2015surveillance/index.htm)
Moreover, while hepatitis A is one of the most obvious and potentially deadly health problems related to the lack of public restrooms, hand washing stations, and sanitary eating conditions, homeless people (especially women and older adults) are also more likely to develop urinary tract infections when they do not have access to restrooms. These UTIs can become kidney infections without early treatment- also a serious and potentially deadly condition.
The combination of UTIs, kidney disease and other infections contribute to declining health and early death in the homeless population when left untreated. They may also be why so many HepA infections are resulting in the need for hospitalization, intensive treatment, and- without those interventions- death.
For weekly updates on the local deaths from hepatitis see: http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/community_epidemiology/dc/Hepatitis_A.html
Public Health needs to be doing outreach to get people inoculated. There is a Hep A vaccine. This is the more effective way to deal with an outbreak. Hand washing well enough to kill all pathogens is actually pretty hard. But then, County Nurses are being lost at an alarming rate. The conditions they work under are unmanageable. The County is stretching their resources too thin, and do not pay enough to attract quality nurses to fill these positions.
@Nathan Wollmann agree vaccinations will help, but getting them to the thousands of homeless San Diegans who have been pushed underground by policing/criminalization will be a challenge.
Also- There is a lack of trust that makes some avoid social workers/healthcare providers. And as you mention, working conditions for county nurses are also bad and may result in a strike.
Finally- the County is treating symptoms, and still not addressing the underlying cause of this outbreak: lack of secure housing and basic sanitation. These are needed, along with vaccinations, to prevent additional infections/deaths.
Agree. Just noting that, strictly from a public health standpoint, now is the time to get people vaccinated. The root of the problem is certainly lack of housing for homeless. Also, I think it is government and nonprofit responsibility to address the lack of trust you mention. I think they have good reason for that lack of trust at this point.