San Francisco is known for being one of America’s wealthiest cities and a tourist attraction, but did you know it has a huge problem with public poop?
According to research conducted by Open the Books, in 2011 the San Francisco Department of Public Works logged 5,500 reports of human faeces found on public streets.
In 2018, this number increased to an all-time high of 28,000, so that’s an increase of 500 per cent!
One thing to note is these statistics refer only to recorded incidents, so the actual numbers are likely higher.
In an interview with NBC last year, San Francisco’s Mayor, London Breed, discussed how the problem may relate to the issue of homelessness the city is also experiencing.
I will say there is more faeces on the sidewalks than I’ve ever seen growing up here. That is a huge problem and we are not just talking about from dogs — we’re talking about from humans.
About 70 per cent of the people estimated to be homeless in San Francisco were actually housed in San Francisco before they became homeless. We have to make sure people who live here, [and] sadly, people who are homeless here, that they are also held accountable for taking care of our streets. This is our home.
Breed added in 2017 the city spent $65 million on cleaning the streets, but only ‘an hour or two’ after they are power washed ‘the place is filled with trash again’.
According to Forbes, in the first quarter of 2019, 6,676 instances of human waste on public streets were recorded, so the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Since 2008, 118 of the city’s neighbourhoods have been affected, but 72 per cent of the cases were reported in just 10 of them.
These are Tenderloin (30,863), South of Market (23,599), Mission (19,150), Civic Center (6,232), Mission Dolores (4,096), Lower Nob Hill (3,654), Potrero Hill (2,489), Showplace Square (2,022), North Beach (1,826) and Financial District (1,810).
In an attempt to combat the problem, the Department of Public Works created what the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed the ‘Poop Patrol’ team, which ‘actively hunt down and clean up human waste’.
The local news outlet adds $2.8 million was spent on a ‘Hot Spots’ crew which washes down homeless ‘camps’ while $3.1 million funded the ‘Pit Stop’ portable toilets.
Mayor Breed told the paper ‘we’re spending a lot of money to address this problem’, no kidding.
Looking at the numbers for 2019 so far though, more clearly needs to be done. And might we be so bold as to suggest funding primarily go toward tackling homelessness rather than just its symptoms?
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.