California Homeless Crisis Worsens as Workers Face Buckets of Feces
With more than 134,000 people currently living in California without shelter, the state’s homeless crisis has become worse than ever before, raising health concerns in over 7,000 encampments around the state which are overflowing with buckets of feces and other contaminated waste. An increasing number of homeless people sleeping on the streets and parks of California means that the state is faced with monumental cleanup costs for its shanty towns which are overflowing with buckets of feces, urine and needles.
California’s Homeless Crisis
With 68 per cent of California’s homeless population living under the open sky, the Golden State has the greatest rate of unsheltered homeless in the country. The lawmakers admitted that ensuring cleanliness and public health safety has become more expensive over the past few years due the added responsibility of cleaning up after the surging homeless group. The cleaning costs topped $10 million last year, according to a workers’ advocate, and the cost for looking after the shelter-less population is also becoming hard to maintain.
The workers’ union has recently filed an official complaint on the behalf of highway maintenance workers tasked with cleaning the human waste and syringes from the filthy towns, accusing the government of California for exposing the workers to conditions that could be hazardous to their health. Moreover, the union said that its members have been inadequately trained and provided with no safety equipment necessary for carrying out the filthy job.
Workers File Official Complaint
In the official grievance, the workers’ union said that members performing dangerous hazmat tasks such as cleaning up human waste and hazardous syringes from homeless encampments on state property must be provided with proper training, required vaccination, higher compensation and Personal Protective Equipment by the Caltrans.
Steve Crouch, the director of International Union of Operating Engineers responsible for filing the grievance told local news reporters that the maintenance workers often have to step into muddy grounds filled with dangerously sharp objects and contaminated items like feminine products, used needles and feces which can’t be picked up with bare hands.
Some of the homeless people use large 5-gallon buckets as toilets which are often abandoned after being filled with feces. Dealing with conditions like this takes a toll on the maintenance crew’s mental and physical health, which is why it is crucial that workers are trained, well-equipped and well paid for such difficult jobs.
Workers Face Hostility From Homeless Community
Apart from scooping up dangerously filthy materials from the encampments, the Caltrans workers complain that they are often subjected to hostility by the homeless ‘residents’ who let their pit bulls loose on the workers to chase them away from the encampments. Other times rockers are hurled at the maintenance crew even though they are doing the homeless a favor by ensuring cleanliness in their encampments.
One member of the Caltrans maintenance crew, who wished to stay anonymous due to fear of losing his job, said that he had participated in six cleanups this year alone, and was given nothing but a pair of disposable gloves to protect himself from dangerous contaminants and disease-causing microorganisms. The worker said that he was completely unprepared for the job on his first cleanup and didn’t expect to stick his hands into dirty feminine products, needles used by drug addicts and piles of rotting feces.
‘Cleaning Encampments is Not the Highway Workers’ Job’
The Caltrans department released a statement after receiving the grievance in which they assured full cooperation with the workers union and better safety standards in the future for maintenance crew. Cleanups in the Golden State are becoming more and more expensive each year due to a surge in the homelessness.
The department revealed that since the fiscal year 2013, almost $30 million have been spent out of taxpayer money to keep the towns of California clean. In 2017, there was a 34 per cent increase in cleanup costs than the previous year as more than 7,000 encampments were encountered close to California’s highways by the maintenance crew.
Crouch hopes that his grievance report sheds some light on the mistreatment of maintenance workers whose job is to look after the highways and ensure that the transportation system runs smoothly. The job description entails striping highway lines, trimming road-side trees and bushes and filling potholes – cleaning buckets of feces and other disgusting materials from homeless encampments is not their responsibility.
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