The Coast News Group
Community Encinitas

Encinitas takes aim at hep A outbreak

ENCINITAS — As San Diego grapples with a hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 18 people and sickened nearly 500 others — many of whom are homeless — Encinitas is taking proactive steps to ward off the infection locally.

City staff last week announced they would be erecting portable bathrooms and temporary handwashing stations potentially at four locations — Moonlight Beach, City Hall’s lower parking lot, Swami’s Beach and adjacent to Leucadia Roadside Park.

The city ordered the portable toilets and applied to the County Department of Environmental Health for the handwashing stations, which the county pays for and maintains.

Two of the portable toilets will cost the city $125 a week, and two will cost $89 a week, said Assistant City Manager Mark Delin, who said the temporary facilities will be open within the next two weeks.

“One of the largest things we can do is improve sanitation within the city,” Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said. “We do have a significant number of homeless people in the city that have no access to bathrooms or hand-washing stations, and hand washing is the most important element of sanitation other than going to a proper place of going to a bathroom.”

Delin said the areas were targeted because the homeless frequently loiter in those locations.

“Nobody wants a Porta-Potty outside of their location, but in these cases, the homeless wind up doing their business near those locations, so the locations make sense,” Delin said.

The city received direction from the City Council, namely Mayor Catherine Blakespear, to see how the city could provide restrooms and handwashing areas that could be accessed 24 hours a day.

Currently, the city doesn’t have any such facilities, meaning that its 100 or so homeless wind up urinating and defecating in public places.

“I was thrilled with the quick work of city staff and our lifeguard and parks department who evaluated the city and have proposed four locations for 24-hour bathrooms and handwashing stations,” Blakespear said. “The county is providing the handwashing stations, and the city the Porta-Potties, as part of our effort to avoid a hepatitis A outbreak in Encinitas, and as a recognition of the simple human dignity issues that surround having a bathroom available.”

San Diego officials have been criticized for their response to the outbreak that has sickened 481 people, most of them homeless who live in the downtown area.