SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Some Salem residents say they’re dealing with a smelly problem: Homeless people are reportedly going to the bathroom in local streets, alleyways and bushes.
But it turns out, it doesn’t take that much time or money to fix the problem.
In Marion and Polk Counties there are nearly 2,000 homeless people. Public restrooms in the region are rare, and none of them are open at night.
Reverend Janet Parker and a group of Salem women put their heads together to find a creative solution to the “potty” problem last spring.
“I knew it was something that was needed, but I didn’t know how much until we put them in place,” Pamella Watson said.
The group created Arta Potties and paid to put 3 porta-potties downtown, giving the city’s homeless population a place to go.
“We understand there are many competing needs for a city to address, but we didn’t want this to get lost,” Parker said.
Now, local artists are putting a twist on the project. They’re wrapping their work around the porta-potties, which Parker says cost $500 a piece (plus $300 per art panel) and $150 a month for bi-weekly cleaning.
“With 2 cleanings a week we’re preventing 30 gallons of human waste from going into the sewers and onto people’s property,” she said. “This is really kind of a simple, innovative, low-cost approach.”
People have gotten word of the project as far away as Ontario, Canada. And now they’re interested in implementing it themselves.
For now, it seems, the Arta Potties are working for Salem.
“They feel valued, they feel like people are thinking they deserve something nice to utilize,” Watson said.
The group plans to install 4 more porta-potties in the area. Along with the art, they’ll be hanging maps that show all of the toilet locations.
Ultimately, they hope to fund a more permanent solution. If you’re interested in donating to their fund, click here.