Human feces map finds San Francisco's homeless

Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:18am EST
 
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By Mary Papenfuss

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Jennifer Wong has found a way to track the homeless and determine where help is needed: mapping where people defecate on the streets of San Francisco.

Wong, a Web developer, used a city database to create the interactive maps, which she dubbed "(Human) Wasteland." They dramatically illustrate the problem of homelessness in a city of sharp divides between rich and poor.

Wong's maps won a competition at work. She donated some of her winnings to a project that provides mobile toilets and showers to the homeless.

The maps are based on the database of complaints about human feces and urine phoned in to the city’s Department of Public Works in 2013. On the maps, the complaints are depicted with tiny images of what look like unwrapped chocolate Hershey's kisses. 

From June-November 2014, more than 5,000 complaints were phoned in, most of them in the Tenderloin, the downtown neighborhood of the homeless, shelters and cheap hotels.

But the maps, published on Wong's website (mochimachine.org/), also show a concentration of poop in much of northeastern San Francisco and in the onetime hippie enclave of Haight-Ashbury.

The maps prompted some tongue-in-cheek humor about human excrement. But they also started a conversation about the need for affordable housing in the increasingly expensive Bay Area, as well as for toilets, laundry facilities and showers for the homeless.

“There’s not much choice other than the street when a homeless person needs a bathroom,” said Wong. “It’s pretty clear where the need is.”   Continued...

 
An attendant stands outside two portable toilets in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, California December 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stephen Lam