Are port-a-potties an option for homeless camps?
Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel said waste associated with homeless camps is a something she hears about a lot.
"I receive tons of phone calls each week about trash, poop and needles," she said at Wednesday's Assembly Committee on Homelessness meeting.
Earlier, Zaletel had asked the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department to look into putting port-a-potties in homeless camps. Parks Superintendent Josh Durand said the idea might not go over well with the vendor that leases the city portable restrooms; the company had "blacklisted" areas of town where there was concern about vandalism.
"Port-a-potties get burned down, they are subject to all kinds of abuse. The wrong things happen in them," Durand said. "So we think we would get some push-back from the vendor about placing them in those specific locations."
Another issue — servicing port-a-potties that are located in the woods or far back on bike trails. Durand said it wouldn't be safe to drive the large trucks that do that job on public trails. When it comes to keeping trash in trash cans, Durand said that's a problem too.
"The trash cans have been emptied by the same community looking for items of value within the trash," he said. "So we are reluctant to think if we place them there they will be utilized properly."
Durand said it's better to place facilities in more public places that are close to homeless camps. He suggested a port-a-potty and a dumpster might work well at the sport complex behind the Sullivan Arena as well as on Folker Street, which is close to the Chester Creek Trail.
The idea of providing more services to homeless campers didn't sit well with some members of the public at the meeting. Fairview property owner Rob Cupples was particularly frustrated.
"I feel like you're putting an awful lot of effort into figuring out how to accommodate and facilitate these people and not enough effort into figuring out how to eliminate these camps," he said. "Stop wasting time on trash cans and two port-a-potties for an entire city, figure out how to abate these camps in 24 hours."
Zaletel said she considered a permanent solution to homelessness a long-term goal.
"I am working tirelessly to work on shelter, but when the response is 'we want those things gone', I think we have to do them in tandem," she said.
Zaletel said, if nothing else, the public's health and safety could be at risk.
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