Carmen De Los Rios stood in front of a portable bathroom facility on Ellis Street in the Tenderloin on Tuesday afternoon, nearly brought to tears with happiness.
"We need this," she said. "It's really hard to be able to find places to go to the restroom or even to simply wash your hands."
De Los Rios, 62, is one of the many homeless residents who now have access to three new portable stations as part of a $150,000, six-month pilot project to help keep streets clean and offer residents a safe place to do their business.
Tenderloin Pit Stop facilities -- which provide portable toilets and sinks, receptacles for used needles and dog waste disposal -- aim to curb repeated complaints from residents of dirty streets. The complaints come despite the face that streets are cleaned daily.
Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the Tenderloin, has been championing for a public toilet program for the past two years.
Last month, the Department of Public Works responded to 967 reports of human excrement on the streets and sidewalks citywide, more than half of which were in the Tenderloin. Most of the human waste was found in more private areas off main thoroughfares, such as alleyways, parking lots, outside of emergency exits and between parked vehicles.
The pit stops will be open from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, after most of the nonprofits in the neighborhood are closed for the day. The pilot will run through Jan. 16 and be monitored by paid staff. The facilities also will be removed daily to be serviced offsite, according to the DPW.
The DPW will assess the program's effectiveness based on usage, service-request data, on-the-ground observation by cleaning crews and community response. If successful, city officials will consider expanding the program to other high-need neighborhoods.