Put simply, the money spent providing for hundreds of thousands of bathroom uses per year -- millions since the program's inception -- is money you don't spend power-washing urine and feces off the street. It's money you don't spend gathering needles out of gutters and planters and sand boxes.
It's money you don't spend cleaning up dogshit, either.
Not only is providing a place for people to sanitarily relieve themselves or safely dispose of needles a decent thing to do, it's also bottom-line beneficial: As is the case with every other element of administering to the homeless population, things cost so much more when you react, rather than act.
The Pit Stop program's annual budget is now $3.1 million. Out of context, that's a fair amount of money; a single Pit Stop can cost between $170,000 and $205,000 a year to operate, with labor making up most of the costs. But, as a point of comparison, the city spends upwards of $1.19 million per year on toilet paper.
San Francisco, meanwhile, puts a jaw-dropping $65 million toward cleaning its streets; Mayor Mark Farrell dolloped an additional $12.8 million into street-cleaning in the latest budget cycle alone.
It is, frankly, difficult to say this glut of street-cleaning funds is money well-spent. Without providing people with a place to relieve themselves, putting ever more money into street-cleaning is a bit like buying a bigger bucket instead of patching the hole in the boat.
As we noted last week, cleaning the streets is reactive. Even Mayor London Breed's headline-grabbing "poop patrols" are merely proactively reactive. Power-washing filth off the streets will always be a necessity in this and every city. But, even viewed merely as a spreadsheet item and giving no consideration to human dignity, Pit Stops aren't just an expense -- they're an investment. In June of 2014, there were 742 requests for steam-cleaning in the Tenderloin. Three years and multiple Pit Stops later, in June of last year, there were 298.
In much the same manner that the ultimate solution to homelessness is homes, the means of preventing urine and feces on the street is toilets: