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San Francisco Neighborhood Takes Up Collection To Hire Its Own Private Poop Patrol
John Leggett helps to install portable toilets in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, California on Tuesday, June, 28, 2016. The Tenderloin district is commonly known as a hotbed for homelessness where people often relieve themselves on the streets. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

San Francisco is now famously the city of feces-covered sidewalks. But one particularly affected neighborhood — the city’s Tenderloin district — is so fed up with the mess they’ve taken up a collection from local businesses and residents to hire a private company to clean the sidewalks in between visits from the city’s official “poop patrol.”

Fox News reports that the Tenderloin, which, according to the San Francisco “poop map,” is “ground zero” for the city’s waste problem, with dozens of reports of human feces littering the sidewalk being called into the city’s 311 non-emergency hotline every month, and despite San Francisco’s reported overtime commitment to keep the streets feces-free, the city’s “poop patrol” cleanup unit is only able to thoroughly wash the Tenderloin’s public sidewalks around once per month because demand is so high.

The new program, the Tenderloin hopes, will increase powerwashings to at least once per week.

“The Tenderloin Community Benefit District, which is a non-profit neighborhood group, secured an additional $260,000 this year to essentially quadruple the number of times the neighborhood’s sidewalks are professionally cleaned a month, according to the program’s supervisor Matt Haney,” reports Fox News. “Property owners within the district’s 30 square blocks helped fund the program as the neighborhood continues to be plagued by a large homeless population.”

The program won’t supplant the city’s “poop patrol” efforts, run by the San Francisco Department of Public Works. But that group can only wash the sidewalks with industrial grade equipment once per month. Otherwise, the “poop patrol” hoses down the sidewalks with fire hoses and and steam cleaners once per day.

The daily wash doesn’t get everything, and going a month between industrial washes leaves the sidewalks a mess. So the Tenderloin wants a private company to come in and do a thorough deep clean once per week, ideally before the work week begins and employees of big-name tech companies like Twitter, whose headquarters are located nearby, have to wade through the mess to get to work.

The city of San Francisco has been dealing with the “poop problem” for more than a year now. While there aren’t reliable numbers available yet for 2019, in 2018 there were 28,084 instances of sidewalk feces reported to the city’s 311 hotline (those “incidents” could involve either human or animal poop).

A local NBC affiliate estimates that the city has received over 25,000 complaints so far, which would make 2019 San Francisco’s poopiest year ever — and that’s based only on documented reports. The real number could be much, much higher.

The city has tried to handle the issue by focusing on cleaning up the mess as often as possible and providing more public restrooms for the city’s ever-growing homeless population, but those efforts have mostly failed, if only because they barely scratch the surface of what is an endemic city issue. The Tenderloin district, for example, did get a new public restroom, serviced by Pit Stop and paid for by the city, but it’s not enough, and it doesn’t have 24-hour security, which means those sleeping rough aren’t always using it for its intended purpose.

The problem does actually seem to be San Francisco’s non-enforcement of rules against setting up camp on city streets and sidewalks. Although an estimated 7,500 people call the streets of San Francisco home, the city refuses to do much more than provide them with temporary housing and facilities. There’s no room for shelters (and rent is far too high for non-profits to afford, anyway), and public housing doesn’t seem to be an option. Short-term jail time could prove useful, but only as a temporary fix to a permanent — and growing — problem.

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