Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Dear Carol,

Thank you for providing interesting information. The Recode link is not working. It says: Page not found.

Regarding starting a new thread, it is OK with me. But, let us see, how others respond. Till then, you need to wait.

Regards,

F H Mughal
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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Hi, Mughal,

Building and plumbing codes regulate household sanitation requirements. Without approved systems houses cannot change owners, banks cannot arrange loans or mortgages. Permitting for building or home improvements requires surveye and inspections.

The entities that play the key role in this are 1) Public Health agencies; and 2) Code organizations such as UPC, IPC, ICC, IAMPO etc, particularly the procedures for code change, which entail slow processes of expert and public comment.

For more information look at the sanitation and hygiene policies of any US state or county Public Health Department. And check out Recode www.recodenow.org/ an organization tracking water and sanitation codes and proposing code change.

I notice that yours and the previous post are NOT about urban homelessness but rather about rural poverty, health and code issues. If there is sufficient interest, we might want to start a new thread. I'm somewhat familiar with the situation in the US and would like to know more about codes and health gaps in other places where most (but not all) are served by advanced sewered systems.
Carol McCreary
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Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Several comments in one post.

1. Mughal - a. I suspect the banks are concerned that people without proper sanitation will contaminate their land/property with human waste, thus reducing the value of the property and making it harder to recover its value in case of default. Additionally, banks tend to discriminate against the poor, either due to racism of individual employees or out of profit motive that leads to systemic problem with people with lower credit worthiness (credit score) that tend to be people of color, new immigrants, women and people of lower education level.

b. Homelessness is a feature of all large cities, and probably smaller ones as well. One cause is the housing collapse leading to home repossessions by lending institution, another is loss of jobs and inability to pay rent or mortgage. Other issues are untreated mental health or other medical problems - leading to loss of income and inability to pay rent.

2. Markllo - why not use one of the many solutions for peri-urban areas, such as septic tanks in wet areas and ventilated pits for dry areas? These are low-cost solution that are a fit for such camps, and can rely perhaps on some members of the community who are motivated (or can be motivated by a small salary) to maintain the facilities instead of relying on random users some of which are not able to do it?

PS I am new to the forum, and did not realize there were 2 previous pages before posting, so my apologies for repeating some previous suggestions
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Dear Mariska,

The NY Times piece says: "Most banks now require proof that a home has proper sewage disposal before lending."

The banks should waive this condition in poor settings. The article suggest that, in addition to poverty, dense clay soil makes it difficult to go for septic tank.

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F H Mughal
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Not only for people without homes in the US sanitation is too costly -

Just out in the new The Water Institute at UNC Newsletter #64: Fall/Winter 2016
www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/health/plumbi...es-poverty.html?_r=1

Very interesting read - perhaps it already passed by on the platform..? (Elisabeth I'm counting on you to correct me if it indeed did..)

Best regards and thanks for the interesting input,
Mariska.

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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Mughal - By some estimates there are currently millions of people in the United States who lack stable living situations. In addition to those that are termed the "chronic homeless" (people served and thus recorded by social service agencies) these estimates include people who are living in their automobiles, squatters, migrant farm workers, so-called "couch surfers", and others for whom there are simply no reliable statistics. By other indicators, half of the population in the U.S. is considered "poor", not to the degree of many of your fellow Indians, but nonetheless considered impoverished by the standards of a Western industrialized country. The situation is a disgrace.
Kai Mikkel Førlie

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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Dear Carol,

Thank you for your feedback. The factors you mentioned - economy, mental illness, addiction, migration, are strong enough to cause homelessness.

Just one query: Is this happening in other US cities?

You are right - we should talk of sanitation. It is just that I thought it would be helpful to understand background of an area, before taking sanitation head-on, in that area.

Regards,

F H Mughal
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Hi Mughal,

Yes, most homeless San Franciscans once had houses in San Francisco. The most recent research here on the west coast shows that the economy, particularly the housing market to be a cause urban houselessness. Other factors contribute - mental illness, addiction, rural to urban migration - but not as much as most people think.

This research comes from the federally mandated tracking every city does in the form of a Point-in-Time count of people sleeping on the street or in emergency shelters. This census takes place on one night in the month of January. The links to the report are sfgov.org/lhcb/reports The article on the 71% is a brief review of the most recent report issued by the San Francisco government and partner NGOs. You have to click on the links in an article to get to the hard data and the analysis on which the article is based.

It's NOT our purpose here to study homelessness, but rather appropaches to meeting the SANITATION needs for a certain segment of the US population. However, I thought some background links would be useful to international researchers and scholars who may hold the same stereotypes of homeless people held by many Americans.

To get back on the topic of this thread, I'll add additional links specifically on sanitation to my post of yesterday.

Carol
Carol McCreary
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Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Dear Carol,

That is an interesting information, you shared, along with the links to the articles. I'm, still, unable to digest the heading: "71% Of SF Homeless Once Had Homes In SF." How come? SF is a nice city. Listen to the song: San Francisco by Scott Mackenzie.

Just one point: Are there research papers on the topic that you can share?

Kind regards,

F H Mughal
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Karachi, Pakistan

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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Hi,

It’s great to see this discussion of toilets for unhoused urban Americans. Developing one or more appropriate technologies which can prove successful will require the experience of people around the world.

US cities have had networked sewers for more than a century. They are path dependent on technologies that crushingly expensive and hurt the environment in a host of ways. At the some time US building and plumbing codes are locked in and very difficult to change. Getting permission for prototyping is very difficult.

As I see it, the experience of other counties is the only way we'll find solutions. Let’s use the SuSanA Forum to exchange ideas. Last century had a people from rich countries building toilets for people in poor countries. Lots of failure. Now the good work is being done by professions in and from the developing countries.

To help you all help us here in the US, I thought I’d attach a couple of articles on the socio-economic dynamics of poverty in our cities, particularly here on the West Coast. Why are so many Seattlites, Portlanders and SanFranciscans homeless anyway? And what have their lives been and what are they like now? And what are their local governments doing to help?

sfist.com/2016/02/11/71_of_sf_homeless_once_had_homes_in.php
71% of SF Homeless Once Had Homes in SF by Caleb Pershan. SFist News. Feb 11, 2016
  • People without houses once had homes. 71 percent of them.
  • San Francisco's homelessness epidemic is “homegrown,” due to factors within the city itself.
  • This figure runs counter to a popular theory that San Francisco is so generous with its assistance money and programs that it attracts a majority of homeless people from other rural or urban.
  • US Cities conduct one night counts. This one by the nonprofit Applied Survey Research is a head count of homeless people, including those sleeping in shelters.
  • The city now allocates $241 million to homeless services, $84 million more than in 2011. But where, The Chronicle asks, is that going? Answer: All over the place, with keeping track difficult or impossible. The City has over 400 contracts with 76 private organizations, most of them nonprofits, for providing services to the homeless. And no single system tracks the effects of that $241 million annual investment as it's spread out among them.
This Is How We Count Homeless People. By Caleb Pershan. SFist News. Jan 20, 2015
sfist.com/2015/01/20/at_last_count_there_were.php
  • Homeless people, according to federal law, live in shelters or places "not designed or ordinarily used for regular sleeping accommodation for human beings,"including in vehicles, camping in parks, or squatting in abandoned buildings.
  • However, San Frisco city law has a broader homelessness definition, and would include those staying temporarily in SROs (Single Residency Occupancy, or older hotels, often with kitchenettes.)
wraphome.org/what/homeless-bill-of-rights/oregon-r2r/
The Oregon Statewide Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign. This is one part of 3 statewide campaigns in California, Colorado and Oregon. The Homeless Bill of Rights is a grassroots organizing campaign fighting to end the criminalization of poor and homeless people’s existence

Articles on Toilets for Homeless People


www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/...mpid=twitter-premium
City’s latrine team tries to keep public toilets tolerable. By Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, September 1, 2015.

sfist.com/2016/11/29/petition_launches_to_bring_more_pub.php
Petition Demands More Public Toilets For Homeless In The Tenderloin. By Jack Morse in SFist News, Nov 29, 2016.

www.dropbox.com/s/yuxx7zsjgy7iz9d/Draft%...ail%20Brown.pdf?dl=0
Bathed in Modernity: Spatial Relegation of Houseless Individuals and Liberatory
Approaches for Water and Sanitation in Informal Camps in the United States.
Working paper by Abby Brown of the University of California Santa Cruz, which is referenced in an earlier post to this thread.
  • Participatory and empowering approaches for collaborating with those living in group camps can improve WASH access and advocacy.
  • Such programs have not been systematically undertaken, and research connecting WASH to health outcomes and gender burdens has not been conducted among unhoused people in the United States.
www.phlush.org/2016/02/25/teen-leads-mov...-of-houseless-women/
Teen leads movement bringing menstrual hygiene supplies to thousands of houseless women. PHLUSH. Feb 25, 2016

www.phlush.org/2015/11/04/us-capital-cit...restroom-initiative/
US capital city lacks public toilets: People for Fairness Coalition launches critical initiative. Abby Brown. Nov 4, 2015

www.phlush.org/2015/05/05/global-homeles...-france-for-the-usa/
Global Homeless Day: Toilet Solutions from France for the USA. Abby Brown.
May 5, 2015

www.phlush.org/2015/04/07/staying-human-...ene-while-houseless/
Staying human through hygiene while houseless. PHLUSH. April 7, 2015

www.phlush.org/2013/10/14/a-minimalist-c...r-disaster-stricken/
A Free Minimalist Urine-diverting Dry Toilet (UDDT) for the Unhoused, Poor or Disaster-stricken. Chris Canaday. Oct 14, 2013.

www.phlush.org/2012/10/21/water-and-toil...for-humans-wo-homes/
Water and Toilets for Humans w/o Homes. Abby Brown. Oct 21, 2012
Carol McCreary
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1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Very interesting conversation, thanks.

Mughal, you asked:

I’m surprised to learn that you have homeless people camps in US, and that, they practice open defecation (OD). Homeless people camps and people practicing OD, are common problems in poor developing countries, like Pakistan. OD is also practiced in India and Bangladesh. It is almost unbelievable to note that homeless people camps and OD practice exist in US.

I agree, this can be surprising.

I recommend to you this article in Wikipedia which explains some of the underlying causes of homelessness in the US and initiatives underway to tackle this and to provide shelter:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeless_shelter

(I'd love to add some sanitation content to this article as well)

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

I am writing to lend support to all of the very wise comments made by Hayley and also to second the recommendations made by Chris Canaday. Taking the time to suss out and then respect the declared needs of a group is crucial. Thereafter, deploying the simplest technology to meet the declared need is often the most effective.

Good luck! :)
Kai Mikkel Førlie

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