Aberdeen homeless residents to get two portable toilets

The city of Aberdeen will provide two additional portable toilets in downtown Aberdeen in order to deal with the presence of human waste found on the city’s public streets.

Some city officials and residents from Aberdeen and nearby towns alike have blamed the human waste found throughout the city on the homeless residents downtown. There were a few fiery public comments during the Aberdeen City Council meeting, via Zoom, on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Most of the residents who commented addressed the issue of finding human waste, and other undesirable things, such as needles, throughout parts of the city’s downtown core.

The hope is the sanicans — portable toilets — will help the homeless do their business in toilets instead of on the city’s streets and alleys. The county will pay for the sanicans through the homeless funds from the state, according to Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave.

The two sanicans have a combined cost of $3,740. But Schave asked the county for $5,000.

“Then, with all the little extras like sending someone to pick up garbage, there’s gonna be expenses, so I asked for $5,000,” Schave said.

The first public comment detailed what one person said they witnessed in a port-a-potty that used to be in the Tesla Supercharger station — 416 W. Wishkah St., in Aberdeen.

“When I entered, there was soiled clothing on the floor, needles and feces,” the Cosmopolis resident said. “This was something that I’m sure was not caused by visitors charging their cars. I feel by putting more out you’ll only be spending money for a dry place for our drug population and not for (non-homeless) citizens or visitors to use. It is a terrible thing that you tried to do something to help and people destroy it.”

A Ward 6 Aberdeen resident made a plea for action by Schave and Aberdeen City Council.

“I’m calling on the mayor and council to enact ordinances and-or moratoriums that prohibit the establishment or expansions of any existing businesses, charities, and-or services for the drug addicted and the ‘homeless by choice’ in the city of Aberdeen,” the Aberdeen resident said.

The city of Aberdeen allowed homeless residents to stay at the Temporary Alternative Shelter Location (TASL) in the parking lot behind Aberdeen City Hall — at the intersection of East 1st Street and North I Street — until July 16, 2021. Then, on Nov. 10, 2021, city council voted 6-5 on amendments to add a misdemeanor offense for those who refused to leave the parking lot. There are still maybe 20 tents that remain at the lot.

The homeless residents who still live behind city hall were given a notice to vacate the parking lot Tuesday, Feb. 8. They have until Tuesday, Feb. 22 to leave the premises.

Those in the surrounding areas around the former TASL seem to be most bothered by the homeless residents.

After the public comment period, which included several other comments on problems the “unhoused population” has created for the city, Ward 3 Position 5 council member Liz Ellis made a motion that the city approve the placement of two sanicans in downtown Aberdeen.

Ward 1 Position 1 council member Melvin Taylor did not agree with Ellis’ motion to approve the sanicans and he made his voice known.

“Didn’t we try this before?” Taylor said. “And, they were destroyed? And we want to try again, why?”

Schave, who answered yes to Taylor’s questions, explained to Taylor about why the city had to help its homeless residents.

“Because there’s been a lot of pressure put on the city to provide some sort of sanicans to prevent people (from) using the storefronts for bathrooms,” Schave said.

Taylor shot back in disbelief.

“So, even with the sanicans there, I don’t see what’s going to stop them from using those (storefronts,)” Taylor said. “I’m voting no on that.”

Ward 4 Position 8 council member Deborah Ross detailed what she deals with on a regular basis at the business where she works, which is less than a block from the former TASL area.

“We’re kind of of tired of cleaning the poop off the front door,” she said. “But, I also understand the frustration about the mess created around them. I fail to understand why there has to be so much destruction when all we’re trying to provide is help.”

The good news for people who are tired of dealing with the apparent human waste, garbage, needles and soiled clothes, is that the sanicans will have a 60-day period from when they are installed, to see if they are treated poorly.

At the end of the 60-day period, which was added in an amendment to the original motion for the sanicans, if it was deemed they weren’t really helping and that they were more of of a mess than was “worth dealing with” the council would revisit the issue, Ross said.

Rick Sangder, director of Aberdeen Public Works, wanted to add some perspective.

“As being director of staff that has to clean up fecal matter on the street and in doorways and direct my staff,” he said, noting that he’s not entirely for sanicans downtown. “But, if it keeps anything off the sidewalks that my staff has to go down and pick up with a flat shovel and wash down every day, I’m for it. If it helps something, if it helps in a small way.”