Things That Matter

Man Caught Pooping In Safeway Highlights San Francisco’s Homeless Problem

A viral video of a man pooping in the aisle of a Safeway in San Francisco might seem funny or absurd if it wasn’t so emblematic of the city’s larger issue: homelessness. Footage shows a homeless man defecating in the supermarket and using a roll of toilet paper to clean himself up. 

San Francisco has had an issue managing the ever-increasing amount of human waste in the city. The issue cannot be separated from its homelessness crisis. According to ABC research, there are approximately 9,784 homeless people living in the city in 2019. 

San Francisco has a poop problem.

You can judge the man relieving himself in the video, or you can acknowledge his behavior as a symptom of San Francisco’s failing infrastructure. For example, this year alone, the city has received 25,000 complaints about human waste. San Francisco has even enlisted the help of a “poop patrol” that goes around cleaning up human feces throughout the city. 

Since garnering public disapproval, city Supervisor Matt Haney has implemented steps to ease the problem, but some might say they haven’t gone far enough. Three public restrooms were added in Castro, Soma, and the Tenderloin this month. 

“It’s horrifying for people to step outside and see poop smeared all over the sidewalk, we know it’s getting worse,” Haney told KRON 4. “We’ve seen a reduction in the number of reports of feces in the areas immediately around the pit stop bathrooms including the ones that are 24 hours. We obviously need more. We need to expand the number of these bathrooms and the hours.”

Government figures demonstrate a 35 percent increase in feces complaints from 2017 to 2018. According to the New York Times, homelessness rose 17 percent in San Francisco in 2018. 

The human feces complaints are such a part of San Francisco culture there’s a Twitter devoted to documenting the incidences. 

The Poop Scoop has an automated system that reposts complaints called in to the city’s 311 number. The current bio says in the last 48 hours alone 160 poop cases have been reported and 102 of those cases have been closed. The Poop Scoop’s website even has a map of the city sidewalks indicating where feces has been reported. 

“This is a national embarrassment, it is also many communities a disgusting, public health crisis, no one should be able to walk about and see poop smeared all over the place, no one should live in these conditions. It is not funny,” Haney said.  

While the city has proposed efforts to help the homeless, the wealthy have opposed many of these measures. For example, San Francisco’s rich did not want the city to build a homeless shelter near their affluent waterfront district. 

“Putting mentally ill people and people with drug abuse problems in residential areas is careless,” said Paneez Kosarian, a resident who opposed the shelter

Candice Elder, the founder of the East Oakland Collective, says people like to complain about the homeless but also reject the problem’s necessary solutions. 

“When people think about the homeless crisis, sometimes humanity goes out the window,” she said. “People say, ‘I don’t like what’s going on. I don’t want them near our school, get rid of them.’”

San Francisco’s homeless problem has even received the ire of President Trump. 

The President’s dislike for California, which is a Sanctuary city that stands against many of his administration’s policies, has been well-documented. While little has come of it, this September, the Trump administration threatened to cut San Francisco federal funding via the Environmental Protection Agency. The administration claimed that San Francisco violated environmental policies due to rampant human feces and used needles on the streets — caused by the homelessness issue. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom called the threat nothing short of political theater. 

“If joining and funding real solutions to homelessness, instead of political theater and points-scoring, are the Trump administration’s objective, California continues to be ready to engage,” Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for California Gov. Gavin Newsom told USA today, “the state has not been contacted by federal officials.”

The Trump administration proposed building camps in California to store the homeless, a move that made many advocates cringe. Herb Smith, CEO of Los Angeles Mission, which helps the city’s homeless met with members of the Trump administration. Smith felt they were uninformed about what caused homelessness and how to solve it. 

“Look, the Feds don’t have the authority to come in and arrest people for being homeless,” Smith said. “But my real concern about whatever might be presented is that it will include moving people around, traumatizing people and generally just exacerbating the level of human misery we already have.”

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