Echo Park — A pair of plastic portable toilets, a handwashing station and a container to throw away used needles and syringes. Welcome to the Echo Park Pit Stop — the city’s latest effort to deal with its chronic homeless problem.
The Pit Stop, which sit on an empty lot next to the northbound Hollywood Freeway exit at Alvarado Street, is one of 11 such mobile restroom stops across the city. About 30 people a day have been using the pit stop since it opened in March, according to city stats. The pit stops are open 12 hours a day, seven days week.
The mobile restrooms are a few steps away from the tents, mattresses and shopping carts that line both sides of Alvarado where it passes under the freeway. It’s a homeless encampment that is frequently cleared out only to reappear a few days later.
But, according to the two men who work as attendants at the site, the homeless who live in the underpass are not the only ones who have taken advantage of the portable toilets. Pedestrians, bus riders and even some truckers who have come off the freeway have used the facilities, they said.
After a six-month trial run, the City Council in August voted to extend the service for a year and add three Mobile Pit Stops at a cost of more than $2 million for the entire program. The stops are staffed by workers from Hunters Point Family, a nonprofit that also maintains mobile restrooms in San Francisco.
In addition to providing a place to use a restroom and wash up, the Echo Park Pit Stop also serves as a place to safely dispose of needles and syringes. In a recent month, more than 1,800 syringes were collected.
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