SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A volunteer in San Francisco is helping homeless people get back on their feet and get back their dignity by providing clean them toilet facilities.
Christopher Burton’s set up his “Wee City Relief Center” along Cedar St., an alley off Polk Street between Geary and Post. The setup provides bathrooms to homeless people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You don’t walk down the sidewalk anymore and see feces or have the smell of urine,” said Haelen “Niece” Pennock, homeless woman who lives in the lower Polk area. “It’s wonderful.”
She’s one of many people who used to live in a what was a very populated homeless encampment on Cedar St.
Now, it’s home to three bathroom stalls, a sink with running water and soap, drinking water and feminine products to anyone who needs them.
For women like Victoria Perkins who also lives on the streets around here, that means a lot.
“They’re never dirty, they’re always clean. There is always water available, there’s always paper towels, there’s always soap. There’s always someone even here to talk to,” said Perkins. “I use the bathrooms more out here than I do inside the shelter. Because they’re more clean out here than in the shelter.”
Burton started this project in August and is spending about $1,200 a month of his own money to keep it going.
“It’s been so much more than I ever thought it would be,” said Burton. “The alley has been so clean, mice don’t even come through here anymore at night.”
The porta potties here have saved my life numerous times,” said Pennock. “I used to use the restroom on the street. We didn’t have a porta potty. The porta potty over there by the park on Larkin doesn’t open until people show up, so we can’t even get into it.”
“Wee City” hopes to get to a point where homeless people can be hired to monitor and clean the bathrooms. Right now, this is a volunteer program.
But Burton says he can’t keep this up forever by himself. He’s hoping to get the attention of city leaders in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose so he can replace homeless tents with toilets.
He also has setup an online fundraiser to keep Wee City going.
“Just basically put bathrooms out here so you can get your humanity back, so you don’t have to use the bathroom between a car, especially women,” said Burton.
San Francisco has its own Pit Stop program, which provides clean and safe public toilets, used-needle receptacles and dog waste stations in the city’s most impacted neighborhoods. The facilities are a combination of portable toilets and semi-permanent JCDecaux self-cleaning public toilets.