Provide restrooms now

The homeless population needs immediate access to sanitary facilities

Five months ago, six of seven Chico City Council members gave the green light to a new law that does nothing to deal with the roots of homelessness. More than anything, the Offenses Against Waterways and Public Property initiative is simply a way for city leaders to placate certain constituents—to be able to say that they “did something” about the problems associated with people living on the streets.

One of the most controversial complaints aired during discussions of that ordinance was the fact that some people were relieving themselves—that is, urinating and defecating—in public spaces. That’s because the city closes its public restrooms at night, so people who live on the streets have no place to go. If city leaders wanted to remedy that, CN&R opined at the time, there was a no-brainer option staring them in the face: opening the restrooms overnight.

Last week, those on the Internal Affairs Committee finally considered that solution. It took entirely too long for those discussions to take place, but we are pleased that they’re happening. The panel, composed of Councilmembers Tami Ritter, Andrew Coolidge and Reanette Fillmer, directed staff to look into a number of options that, among other things, include renovating City Plaza’s restrooms and installing fancy permanent new facilities (see Evan Tuchinsky’s report on page 10).

Those are interesting options and either may be viable, but we know how fast the bureaucracy that is city government gets things done. In the meantime, people still have no facilities overnight. Wisely, however, the panel is requesting that the City Council consider placing your average porta-potty in the Municipal Center parking lot. The council is slated to take that up at its next regular meeting. We don’t see this as a long-term solution, but it is a good and cheap temporary one. City leaders should approve this stop-gap measure.