By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Thomas Summers never imagined he’d end up here.

He dragged his blanket through Cesar Chavez Plaza, where dozens of other homeless have taken refuge. He’s looking for a shady spot to rest, and an appropriate place to relieve himself.

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“We should probably just put like 24-hour porta-potties out here just two of ‘em on each corner,” he said.

But city leaders say they have a better idea.

They approved a 24-hour public restroom for homeless here, costing up to $325,000. It’s called a “Portland Loo” a single stainless steel stall designed after Portland’s, with flushable toilets, supplies, and maintenance.

“It’s a well-used plaza and there’s no place to go to the bathroom and so people have been coming here to city hall, which is OK,” said Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris.

But Harris says that’s just one part of it. The plan also calls for a new public restroom option nearby in the River District, where homeless are now set up in tents. But this deal has a much bigger price tag, costing up to $625,000.

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An abandoned county building off A and 14th streets won’t just offer toilets. It’ll have attendants, daytime triage services for the homeless, and a cleanup team to respond to calls for human waste and needles.

Critics with the watchdog group Eye on Sacramento are blasting the expense saying, “If there is a way to do something in the most expensive way anyone could possibly imagine, the City of Sacramento will find a way to do it.”

“So why not something simpler like porta-potties?” Harris said. “Many tell me why we’re spending so much. The fact of the matter is – we’ve tried – they tend to get vandalized and trashed almost immediately,” said Harris.

So how much of an impact will the new facilities have?

According to a city map, there are already 85 public restrooms in the city. Many are open 24 hours a day.

For Summers, it’s a basic need.

“We’re nothing but flesh and blood,” he said.

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It’s still unclear how long before they see the Portland Loos at the Plaza.
For now, city leaders are working on creating new signs around town showing where public restrooms are located.