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A few hours after a homeless guy named Virgil died of an overdose in the portable toilet, the blue plastic outhouse at 6th and San Julian streets was back in business.
Not as a toilet, but as a house of prostitution. Five portable toilets stand at that corner in the darkened heart of skid row. As she speaks, a rat skitters up from the sewer and through a grate, past a discarded brassiere, a smooshed apple and an empty bag of Fritos. Rats run into, under and around the portable toilets with a brazen sense of entitlement, as comfortable as house pets. Sights like this are common on L. A place where disease, abuse, crime and hard-luck misery are on public display and have been for years, conveniently out of sight and mind for most Angelenos.
No matter how many times I go in, I come out shocked all over again. A couple walk past the 6th and Julian toilets now, pulling shirts up over their noses to block the stench.
At times, the toilets are actually used for their intended purpose, and the unspeakable odor that envelops the corner is toxic enough to buckle your legs.
This is not the only place on skid row where business thrives in Porta-Potties. Prostitution, drug dealing and drug abuse are common in toilets across the eastern flank of downtown.