Health

LA to boost bathroom access for homeless amid hepatitis A outbreak

The city wants to get ahead of a potential public health crisis from hepatitis A by providing access to public restrooms.
The city wants to get ahead of a potential public health crisis from hepatitis A by providing access to public restrooms.
Frank Stoltze

New portable restrooms may soon be available to homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles, as the city works to get ahead of a potential public health crisis affecting one of its most vulnerable populations.

The Los Angeles City Council directed staff to put together a plan for providing portable bathrooms and find emergency funds to make it happen.

Councilmembers expressed concern about the spread of hepatitis A, after county public health officials recently declared a local outbreak.

“People without access to restrooms are forced to urinate and defecate in public places,” Councilmember Mike Bonin said in his motion. “Residents and business owners frequently report human feces in local alleys or on local sidewalks and parkways.”

The disease is highly contagious and is primarily spread through contact with feces on surfaces or sexual contact, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.

County officials cited 10 cases in its declaration last month.

“The large majority of cases have occurred in persons who are homeless and/or use illicit drugs (injection and non-injection), with several cases also occurring among people who provide services to the homeless,” according to a statement.

Half of those case in L.A. County were from individuals in San Diego and Santa Cruz, where officials have been struggling to address local outbreaks.

San Diego has had 516 cases of hepatitis A with 19 people dying as a result of the disease. In response, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency earlier this month. 

In Los Angeles, officials directed staff to consider a model developed in San Francisco in 2014 called Pit Stop. Toilets on a trailer are parked on streets and monitored and kept clean by a paid attendant.