Closed park bathrooms lead to a big mess ... and concern about a broader health risk

Closed park bathrooms lead to a big mess ... and concern about a broader health risk

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Homeless sweeps have been suspended as service providers go from camp to camp distributing hygiene products.

But homeless advocates say all that work is for nothing if people don’t have a place to wash up.

On Monday, authorities started boarding up park restrooms across Oahu.

At one shuttered restroom, HNN witnessed an elderly man lay in the grass to defecate. His feces covered paper towels littered the ground at Mother Waldron Park. He was just a few steps away from that bathroom.

The sign on the door said “closed for maintenance.”

“We are making a public health risk much worse,” said Laura Theilen, executive director of Partners in Care. “And I believe this is a life and death situation.”

Theilen called on government to reopen all park restrooms.

Most of the facilities closed when parks closed, contradicting CDC guidelines that advise keeping restrooms open 24 hours and stocking them with basic hygiene supplies for the homeless.

Theilen says the state has unlocked its facilities but the city has not, even though they were supposed to.

“All Kailua bathrooms except one are boarded up or gated,” said Theilen. “There are many, many bathrooms that are still closed.”

James Koshiba, of Hui Aloha, said there are volunteers who can help maintain the facilities.

“We have volunteers. We have donors, we have houseless people who depend on these bathrooms who are willing to step forward and help to check, them, maintain them and clean them," Koshiba said.

Caldwell responded to the concerns on Friday afternoon, saying that he’s “been assured that all the restrooms around the parks on this island will be open as of the end of today.”

The administration says it’s still working on a plan on how it will distribute hygiene products saying they’ve had problems with people stealing toilet paper.

“We’re looking at a camping approach,” said Marc Alexander, the city’s homeless liaison.

“Where we would provide packets of appropriate materials to people who would be using the facilities and that way they would be assured of what they had would be clean.”

Alexander added four county restrooms will remain closed for maintenance, including the facilities at Mother Waldron Park.

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