San Francisco Has Spent An Insane Amount Of Money Cleaning Up Poop

The city "may be even dirtier than slums in some developing countries."

A man pushes his belongings in a cart on a street, November 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The city of San Francisco is dealing with an overwhelming homeless problem, but the problem may be even stinkier than previously reported — and it's going to be very expensive to clean up.

According to a survey of "diseased streets" conducted by San Francisco's local NBC affiliate, which investigated 153 of San Francisco's downtown city blocks — the same city blocks most frequently visited by tourists, and some in the most central part of the city — 96 of those blocks had evidence of feces.

Forty-one of those blocks had evidence of drug use, including needles or other drug paraphernalia.

“We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash,” said one local resident who spoke to NBC. “Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a 2-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.”

Cleaning it up has become an expensive problem. Of the City of San Francisco's public works budget for "street environmental services" — around $60 million — more than half has gone to cleaning up the poop. And the process is by no means simple: "The steamer has to come. He has to park the steamer. He's got to come out with his steamer, disinfect, steam clean, roll up and go," San Fran's public works director told NBC.

It's an endless, thankless job, because San Francisco isn't addressing the root causes of their problem. Instead, experts say, city government has allowed San Francisco to become dirtier than some of the dirtiest slums in the third world.

"'The contamination is … much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India,” [one expert on infectious disease and sanitation] said. He notes that in those countries, slum dwellings are often long-term homes for families and so there is an attempt to make the surroundings more livable. Homeless communities in San Francisco, however, are often kicked out from one part of town and forced to relocate to another. The result is extreme contamination."

San Fran, the expert says, is nothing short of a human tragedy. And its residents are paying for it.

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