Public Bathrooms for Chico
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The city of Chico, California has a poop problem. A public poop problem.
The city council was recently asked to revisit this issue, and Councilor Schwab requested the council to direct Mark Orme, the city manager, to look into the feasibility of a partnership to provide public restrooms, possibly at no cost to the city.
That's right...the problem could have been resolved, potentially at NO cost to the city.
Instead, the majority voted to disallow even the exploration of options to resolve this issue, despite the fact that a diverse groups of citizens spoke to express concern about the mess and outright alarm at the potential for the spread of diseases like Hepatitis A, as has happened in so many other cities. In fact, Chico is already witnessing a considerable uptick in the number of Hepatitis cases. We are teetering on the precipice of a major public health crisis.
We need bathrooms available, 24/7, in multiple locations throughout Chico, and we need them immediately. This crisis can't wait. It is time for the city council to act to protect our community and our health.
How We Got Here:
Chico hosts thousands of college students, many of whom go downtown late at night, and a lack of public bathroom access has long been a problem. In recent years the issue has escalated, however. As with most cities throughout the state and the country, Chico has seen an unprecedented surge in the homeless population. According to the 2017 Point-In-Time (PIT) survey http://www.buttehomelesscoc.com/reports/pit/butte_coc_2017_homeless_census_survey_report.pdf there were almost 1100 homeless people living in the Chico area...and those numbers are from over a year ago. That's 1100 people who don't have ready access to a bathroom throughout the day, in addition to the pressures already placed on limited resources by students.
The potential for the spread of disease as a consequence of the city's failure to provide adequate bathroom facilities increases with every passing day. As intolerance for the presence of the homeless has grown, they have been forced into the back alleys and the parks, into creek beds and even hollow trees, ever further from the few available public bathrooms. Available bathrooms, I might add, that are only open during the daytime anyway.
The consequences have been devastating to our town and our environment, not to mention the basic human dignity of so many already struggling on the streets. Had you implemented a plan with the explicit purpose of engendering public antipathy towards the homeless population, you'd be hard pressed to come up with a better idea than forcing people to defecate in public.
What Will Happen if We Don't Address The Issue?
As of September of 2017, San Diego's Hepatitis Outbreak had sickened nearly 600 and killed 17. At the time the article was written below, the financial costs to the city where over 3 million dollars and rising, as was the death toll. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/data-watch/sd-me-hepatitis-costs-20171009-story.html
Closer to Chico, Santa Cruz (a coastal analog for Chico if there ever was one) has faced similar issues, with 76 cases last fall. Even as the outbreak diminished in Santa Cruz, Monterey County was forced to declare a public health emergency because of the spread of Hepatitis as well.
Now is not the time to get bogged down in the debate about the reasons the homeless are here, or whether they "deserve" access to bathrooms. The city council has a duty to safeguard the safety and health of our entire community. They are not doing their job.
What Can We Do?
We need bathrooms, 24/7, in multiple locations throughout Chico, and we need them now. For the short term, this probably means deploying some type of portables. Please sign the petition to join us in demanding that the Chico City Council take immediate action on this issue to safeguard the health and well-being of all community members.
In addition, please consider sharing this petition with friends and family, through email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platforms you use. A letter to the council or speaking up at a council meeting may help bring home the importance of the issue, as will letters to the editors of the local papers. Speak out wherever those in power may listen.
At this point it is clear that the only way this issue will be addressed is through direct action from the community.
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