Two portable restrooms opened Monday for people experiencing homelessness across the street from Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many city buildings, along with other public bathrooms, have closed. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said as a result, more people are using sidewalks and alleyways to relieve themselves.
“There's only 10 public spaces in Salt Lake City where those who are unsheltered can use the restroom,” Mendenhall said. “People need to have their basic rights met and that includes a private, clean place to use a bathroom.”
A citation for relieving yourself in public can snowball into arrest warrants for a failure to appear, Mendenhall added, which can impact unsheltered residents’ ability to get a job down the line.
The portable restrooms in the Ballpark neighborhood are staffed with attendants who are tasked with cleaning them in between uses and ensuring only one person at a time goes in.
But Shelley Bodily, who lives near the location, said she’s concerned the attendants won’t be able to enforce those rules very well, and that could lead to criminal behavior.
“The ballpark is like our thing here,” Bodily said. “That is our anchor to our community. And I know that there's not games right now, but ... we should activate that space with a lot of good stuff instead of bringing porta potties in.”
Bodily said she agrees that people experiencing homelessness should have a clean place to use the restroom. But a better spot for them, she argued, would be near the neighborhood’s homeless resource center.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson