Anaheim, California, a conservative enclave in Southern California, has chosen to confiscate the toilets of its homeless residents in favor of dehumanizing buckets. The homeless of Anaheim live in encampments not much different than the open-air favelas that are universal to all third-world countries.
Somewhere in the southern California city of Anaheim, less than five miles from Disneyland, three porta-potties – two pink, one gray – are locked in a city storage facility. It’s not where they’re supposed to be. They were meant for a dusty homeless encampment that sprawls along the west bank of the Santa Ana river, and is home to hundreds of men, women and children in tents and other makeshift shelters. But the toilets are sitting unused after being confiscated by the city, and the residents have nowhere to relieve themselves except in the bushes, or in buckets, or in the cramped privacy of their own tents.
The poor of Anaheim live in encampments where conditions are rife for the development of disease. In San Diego, there was a recent Hepatitis A outbreak among people living in similar conditions.
Many in the encampment are unable to work because of disabilities or mental illness. Others are simply unable to keep up with the cost of living in Anaheim. Disneyland is the city’s biggest employer, and recent protests excoriated the company for paying wages so low that some of its employees ended up homeless, and slammed the city over its homeless policies. One resident of the encampment who would give only her first name – Michelle – moved to the riverbed a couple months ago, just after the porta-potties were taken away. Michelle was at the city council meeting at the end of August.
Many are living in these encampments on a subsistence basis.
A couple hundred feet down the bike path that doubles as a throughway for the riverbed encampment, Ramona Martinez sat washing her clothing in a rubber bucket. She moved to the riverbed around the same time as Michelle – she’s been homeless since her husband was deported six years ago.