[Hpn] San Francisco, CA - No relief in public toilet battle - The Mercury
News - July 10, 2002
Wed, 10 Jul 2002 06:24:22 -0500
No relief in public toilet battle
"It's a violation of human and civil rights to criminalise activities you need
by The Tasmania (Australia) Mercury News - July 10, 2002
LAWMAKERS determined to clean up San Francisco are taking on the homeless who
use the streets of one America's top tourist destinations as a public toilet.
Residents surprised to learn that no ban exists on urinating and defecating in
the streets here are watching with interest as the city's board of supervisors
prepares to meet next week to approve a bill outlawing the practice.
An estimated 12,000 homeless people live in the city and police have until now
had little success in preventing them from relieving themselves on the
Business owners and tourist organisations have been at the forefront of the
drive to enact a specific measure outlawing the practice.
"Most San Franciscans feel compassion for the homeless, but we just have to draw
the line at certain types of behaviour that shouldn't be tolerated in any city,"
said Mike Sullivan, chairman of Plan C, an organisation that advocates "quality
of life" issues.
"If nothing else, basic public health concerns mean that we need to not only
enact laws, but also enforce them."
Until now police have sought to prosecute offenders under anti-waste dumping
laws but judges threw out most of the 1,100 citations issued to the homeless in
2000, ruling the laws applied to garbage, not to human waste.
However, the battle to clean up the streets has kicked up a stink in a city
known for its liberal views.
"It's a violation of human rights and civil rights to criminalise activities you
need to do to survive," said Chance Martin, editor of Street Sheet, a newspaper
published by the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness.
Opponents of the bill are incensed that the homeless will literally have nowhere
to go -- San Francisco has a shortage of public toilets.
"As long as city-owned buildings don't uniformly permit homeless people to use
their facilities, and as long as restaurants and hotels and everybody connected
with the tourist industry do not permit homeless people to use their facilities,
the purpose of the law is to criminalise homeless people," said Martin.
If signed, as expected, by Mayor Willie Brown, the law will go into effect after
30 days. Violators will be fined from $US50 ($88) to $US500 ($885).
source page http://www.themercury.news.com.au/