Public toilets, sinks installed in Kensington to curb Hepatitis A outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A first look at the newly installed mobile, public restrooms and sinks along Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia.

Funded by the city and manned by Prevention Point, the facility targets those most vulnerable to Hepatitis A, which is common among drug users and the homeless.

The virus has been a city-wide emergency concentrated in Kensington.

"Hepatitis A spreads through sanitation issues like feces, lack of ability to wash hands, so having public restrooms is just one tool, in a toolbox of many," Kerri Hartnett from Prevention Point.

Joseph Novasak has not had easy access to a restroom until this week.

"It was nice, it's better than going to on the streets, or back alleyway," he said. "You can get arrested or a citation from police by going to the bathroom on the side, so I'd rather do it that way."

Some residents welcome the steps to improve their blocks.

"It will help by keeping the homeless people's hands clean, and germs," said Rafi Tinley. "And from them going to the bathroom on the street."

Others question the efforts, especially when photos online surfaced of a handwashing station damaged after being installed. The city has now tied it to a light pole as a deterrent.

"They're vandalizing it, and not taking care of it like they should," said Terry who lives in Kensington.

"It's more than just helping people have access to a bathroom. It's pointing them to necessary resources that will help them stay safe," said Harnett. "We're talking to people about how easy it is to get vaccinated and how to prevent it by hand washing and using the public restrooms."
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