"It's the worst part. Usually I'm doing like a river cleanup, and the worse thing I'll see is a single condom or a dead fish. Homeless camps have both piss and shit in anything you can imagine." Porta-potties cost money, and hey, funny question: You know what the homeless don't have a lot of?
Most of the places Carol cleans up make due with a designated pooping area. "But more in the city, there isn't the ground or room for that, and it will be everywhere. There was an alley we were cleaning up that had a dumpster. Sanitation had complained because they couldn't get to this dumpster in almost a year. One of the volunteers was picking stuff up and throwing it away, and opened the dumpster to throw something away. Immediately, the smell of shit went from about a 4 right up to a 10. Our lead went over and looked inside and almost keeled over. 'This dumpster is full of shit!' I didn't want to look, but from the specialty crews they brought in, and the smell, it really was."
Carol also reported numerous bags of shit and bottles of urine. "You know those 20-ounce bottles, or like a cup from Jack in the Box? Yeah, they were there. The fields never had them, but in the city they certainly did. A few times there were, like, bottles with blood. Not a lot, but still enough to notice."
"Overpasses are the worst. When we came in to clean, it always smelled like urine, and you could always see a little trickle of liquid going down off the sidewalk into the road. It could be water, it could be urine. It was almost always both. Street crews would have to come and clean it, and I was told the same method they used to clean up after homeless urine streams was how they would clean up after a car accident that leaked fluid. It was a biohazard."
Conditions at many of these sites are considered public safety violations, with some, like this infamous Seattle camp, upgraded to "inhumane." It's worth noting that there are also some very well-put-together, organized, and funded homeless camps. Those are not the ones Carol is talking about.
"Oh, I've seen rats there. Cockroaches, too. You expect those in any city, but at homeless camps, it's bad. At a few really bad camps, there was a doctor who checked us out for lice and fleas when we left. And this was after we received these special plastic coverings over our clothes."
We know this sounds like a nightmare scenario with no good options, but ... that's only because that's exactly what it is.