Restrooms for the Weary

by Martha Sadler

Former Santa Barbara City Council candidate Bob Hansen (pictured) has renewed his campaign to make bathrooms available 24/7 for the homeless who sleep and congregate near lower Milpas Street. At budget hearings last week, Hansen urged county supervisors to consider the effect on ocean water quality of people going to the bathroom “behind bushes and dumpsters.” Given Hansen’s long record of agitating for homeless bathrooms, he is clearly a force to be reckoned with. A few weeks ago, he personally rented a port-a-potty, placed it near the Casa Esperanza Shelter on Cacique Street, and paid for its servicing. When the city became aware of it, they ordered it removed because Hansen had not applied for a permit. In the ’80s, Hansen advocated for bathrooms to accommodate the homeless on State Street, responding to complaints about the smell of urine emanating from planters. His vociferous activism prodded the city to begin reimbursing restaurants for allowing the public to use their restrooms, and to start providing downtown port-a-potties that were open all night. The first ones in the City Hall parking lot mushroomed into numerous port-a-potties frequented by downtown weekend partyers, and ultimately to the $400,000 red-tile-roofed public toilets — one for women, one for men — now under construction adjacent to Borders. As for other relief options, the bathrooms at the perennially smelly softball diamonds and elsewhere on the beachfront are closed at night, and Casa Esperanza’s original plan for 24-hour toilets fell through after managers found that policy problematic.

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