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City and Nonprofits Doing Their Part to Curb Hepatitis A Crisis

September 22, 2017

By Mario A. Cortez

Photo by Mario A. Cortez

In the middle of the hepatitis A outbreak currently affecting homeless populations in the downtown area the City and Father Joe’s Villages are doing their part in an attempt to curb infection rates.

This week the City of San Diego finished installing the first of many new portable restroom facilities planned to open in the downtown area.

The four new portable restrooms, installed on the corner of First Avenue and C Street, include a handwashing station, are sanitized twice a day, and are also under the surveillance of full-time security staff.

“The installation of more public restrooms is important to stop the spread of hepatitis A,” said Jonathan Herrera, the City’s Senior Advisor on Homelessness Coordination, through a press release. “This is one of the many steps the City is taking to assist the County of San Diego in addressing this public health emergency.”

In the coming weeks the City will look to add more restroom units throughout the downtown area to supplement the already existing 20 public restroom facilities, with the City announcing when and where new washroom units open.

In order to open up more of the planned restroom units, the City is asking property owners in the area to contact authorities if they are willing to have these units on any available space they might have. The city will cover the installation and provide security and maintenance if a site is near at-risk populations.

These efforts come in the wake of earlier action to curb the spread of the hepatitis A virus. The City has already installed handwashing stations in at-risk areas, has implemented regular power washing of sidewalks using a bleach solution, and has offered free hepatitis A booster shots at City libraries.

In the coming months the city will also build three temporary shelters for homeless populations which will house over 100 individuals. These shelters will include on-site showers, meals, and transitional services as well.
On wednesday morning, Father Joe’s Villages, the largest provider of services to homeless individuals in San Diego, held an informational meeting to address the situation and let the public know about their efforts.
In conjunction with the County, the organization has already helped provide over 1,200 hepatitis A shots to vulnerable people on the street.

The nonprofit is also currently opening up its restrooms to the public and are being sanitized every two hours through an agreement with the city. The City has also installed hand sanitizer stations around their services center on Imperial Avenue.

Deacon Jim Vargas, Father Joe’s Villages president and CEO, has pointed out that the sanitizing stations set up outside their services center have to constantly be refilled, which is good considering that it is an indication of people using these.

Jeff Norris, medical director for Father Joe’s Villages, has pointed out that while on person receiving services has contracted the illness at any Father Joe’s facilities, some who seek services are infected with hepatitis A.
Norris also pointed out that preventative measures as simple as hand washing before and after using the bathroom are the key to preventing the contraction of this viral disease.

So far over 400 people have contacted the disease, the majority of these homeless.

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