Chinatown seeks to clean up its act with one new program, another in the works.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Plans to bring a portable toilet to Salinas’ Chinatown could be a major relief, in more ways than one.
For the homeless living on Soledad Street, finding a bathroom is a challenge. When nearby service organizations shut down in the afternoon and local businesses turn away people or close for the night, there are few options.
Salinas Chinatown PHLUSH, a group made up of advocates and the homeless, have a possible solution: Put a portable toilet on Soledad Street and have the homeless community maintain it. (PHLUSH stands for Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human).
It’s a collaboration between CSU Monterey Bay, the homeless population on Soledad Street, and PHLUSH, a Portland group that has instituted a much wider-scale portable toilet campaign in its city.
In previous efforts in the area, portable toilets became sex and drug-use dens. But Seth Pollack, director of CSUMB’s service learning program, says this new experiment may foster civic commitment within the homeless community. Several homeless volunteers have already pledged to help clean the toilet and keep an eye out for trouble.
Salinas PHLUSH has secured a few months’ funding to install the toilet on Soledad Street starting the third week of January, thanks to help from an anonymous donor.
The toilet will be open in the afternoons until 9:30pm for “monitored access,” meaning it will stay unlocked and members of a management team – homeless volunteers – will regularly keep watch. At night, the restroom will be locked and users will need to find a management team escort to unlock it.
People who use the toilet must be card-carrying, rule-abiding members of the PHLUSH group.
Homeless residents of Soledad Street know the stakes if the rules are broken. A major concern of the portable-toilet company is used hypodermic needles.
“I’ve been telling people too, if they find just one [needle], we’ll lose [the toilet],” says Rita Acosta, a volunteer who lives in a tent in Chinatown. “No ifs, ands, or buts. They’ll take it away.”
Meanwhile, another personal hygiene enterprise is brewing on Soledad Street. Dorothy’s Place, a Chinatown soup kitchen, is eyeing a nearby distressed property that can be cheaply purchased from the county and turned into a “personal care facility” run by homeless barbers, beauticians, and others.
There would be a minimal fee for services like showers, says Jill Allen, the nonprofit’s development director.
The project is in no way competing with PHLUSH, she adds. Plans are on hold while the nonprofit searches for donors.