Skid Row needs more public bathrooms, Union Rescue Mission official says

Skid Row has an estimated population of 1,800. That number is more than ever, spread out further and includes more women than in past years.

The population includes women, like 24-year-old Alayna McDonald. She and her husband have been living in a tent since getting kicked out of a recovery home several months ago.

When the one public bathroom on the block is being used, she says she uses a bucket. She doesn't like going inside.

"People go in there and use drugs or do whatever they want and wash themselves because they don't have showers open 24/7, so they're all nasty," she said.

When asked if prostitution happens in those bathrooms, McDonald said "sometimes, yeah."

Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales wants more bathrooms, and he wants them staffed with attendants to prevent that kind of behavior.

"Until we can get everyone off the streets, which is the best solution, the people on the streets need to be treated humanely and need to have enough restrooms so they can use restrooms rather than the sidewalks," Bales said.

His comment begs this question: If you add more bathrooms, does it encourage more homeless people to stay on Skid Row at a time that Downtown Los Angeles is exploding with new construction and growth?

"Yeah, but there's no sign of anybody leaving here," Bales said. "The numbers just continue to increase."

And so do the waits at the public bathrooms.

"There's always someone in there," said Horace. "A lot of people walk by. A lot of people use the bathroom."

Right now, there are only five in the Skid Row area.

The entry door opens and closes by pushing a button. They have an automatic dispenser inside that sprays disinfectant after somebody has been inside. They're called "self-cleaning" and cost about $250,000 each.

Bales admits he hasn't found funding for his idea. He hopes officials will take note at a time Mayor Eric Garcetti has talked about more funding for finding homeless people permanent housing.

For Alayna McDonald, adding dozens of new public bathrooms would be a good start.

"It would be a lot easier for people who are stuck down here!"

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