San Francisco has a 'Poop Patrol' to deal with its feces problem, and workers make more than $184,000 a year in salary and benefits

San Francisco Pit StopEric Risberg/AP

  • Employees of San Francisco's "Poop Patrol" are set to earn $71,760 a year, plus an additional $112,918 in benefits.
  • The city has set aside $830,977 for the cleanup program, which aims to eliminate troubling amounts of feces on the streets.
  • San Francisco's waste problem is the result of a mounting homelessness crisis, driven by a lack of affordable housing.

In San Francisco, you can earn more than $184,000 a year in salary and benefits for cleaning up feces.

As a member of the city's "Poop Patrol," workers are entitled to $71,760 a year, plus an additional $112,918 in benefits, such as healthcare and retirement, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

In August, the city announced that five staffers from the San Francisco Department of Public Works would soon roam the Tenderloin neighborhood - where nearly half of the city's homeless population is located - in search of waste. The staffers will begin their efforts each afternoon, equipped with a steam cleaner for sanitizing the streets.

The full budget for the initiative - $830,977- signifies a concerted effort to address the city's mounting feces problem, which has resulted in more than 14,500 calls to 311, the city's non-emergency services line, since the beginning of the year.

The issue isn't just a matter of dog owners failing to pick up after their pets. As San Francisco faces a shortage of affordable housing, it has struggled to accommodate its more than 7,400 homeless residents.

Though the city's overall homeless population is declining, the share of chronically homeless people in San Francisco is still exceedingly high compared to most other cities. This pattern is starkly contrasted with the city's excess wealth: On average, the typical San Francisco resident earns about $96,677 a year, or nearly double the median household income in the US.

The city's feces problem is a visible reminder of the gap between its rich and poor. Since taking office in June, San Francisco Mayor London Breed has signaled her concern by walking through the city unannounced, in search of waste. In July, she told NBC she had encountered "more feces" on the city streets than ever before.

While the Tenderloin remains the epicenter of the city's homelessness crisis, many residents outside the city center have begun to complain about excess feces in their neighborhoods due to the increased displacement of homeless populations. Should Mayor Breed successfully clean up the city's streets, she'll not only deliver on a major campaign promise, but also demonstrate that she's capable of rapid change.

As part of this mission, the city has channeled additional funds into its existing programs.

The new budget allots more than $1 million for updates to Pit Stop - a program that distributes mobile toilets and dog waste stations in various neighborhoods. The budget allows for five additional toilets and expanded hours of operation at five locations. At the moment, only 13 of the city's 22 units are open daily, with units closing at 8 p.m. at the latest. This leaves a considerable amount of time during which toilets are unavailable to homeless residents.

As a complement to Pit Stop, San Francisco has set aside nearly $3 million for a "hot spots" crew in charge of cleaning the areas near homeless encampments. But the city has struggled to stay ahead of the situation, with many areas now being compared to the world's poorest slums.

While the high salaries of sanitation workers may incentivize further cleanup, the city will ultimately have to contend with its affordability crisis if it hopes to eliminate the problem altogether. This means addressing restrictive zoning laws, which make it both difficult and expensive to add affordable development. It also means grappling with the steady influx of tech workers, who have concentrated in downtown areas due to the city's limited public transportation.

Though Breed has promised to clean the streets within three months of her inauguration, the real challenge will take many years to address.

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