Friday Question of the Day

Friday’s question of the day is honor of Columbia Heights Chic who got me thinking. What would you do if a homeless person set up camp on your stoop or your condo’s stoop? Do you just call the cops? Do you confront the homeless person? It is a very sad situation for which I blame Ronald Reagan, but what can you do about it? I haven’t seen many homeless people in Petworth or Columbia Heights. Have you? What would you do if there was a homeless person setting up camp on your block or condo?

26 Comment

  • I would first ask him to move along. And if he did not, I would use a mix of tossing his stuff down the block and calling the cops to let him know that I would not and do not tolerate homelessness on my block.

    Yeah, you might call it cold, I call it tough love.

  • Related story:

    When I was living in Columbia Heights in 2004, one of the guys who spent all day hanging out in the park across the street from us passed out on our front steps. Our landlord (who lived next door) actually called an ambulance to come out to deal with him just because he didn’t know how else to handle the situation. After the comotion died down, the landlord proceeded to wash, with soap and warm water, the front walk where the man had been asleep. Needless to say, that landlord was a nut job and I moved out as soon as the lease was up.

  • actually lazy cake, i don’t think that washing the porch down with some good antibacterial, even bleach, is a bad idea. a homeless person is just that – homeless. you have no clue where this person went to the bathroom, whether this person was an addict and on and on. who knows what this person was carrying with them. many body fluids and bacterial can live outside the host for hours, sometimes days.

    and i’ve actually seen someone camp out on the porch to a remodeled home on new hampshire across the street from my house, which for some reason or another has no tenants and no sale sign, but that’s another story.

  • For about a year I repeatedly had three different people storing stuff and/or sleeping under my front porch. I learned one was an immigrant construction worker, working on neighborhood rehabs; the second was a local woman with some serious issues, including a drug problem; the third is unknown, and simply stored stuff there.

    In the first instance, I allowed a couple of nights to go by, figuring he would move on. He did not. I then spotted him one morning and told him he could not sleep there any longer.

    In the second instance, I was out of town for an extended trip far away when a friend called. She told me they were walking past my house when they saw this woman asleep under my porch and moaning! They called the police. On my return, my neighbors all told me that had tried to shoo the woman away as well.

    In the third instance, when I spotted the clothes, etc., I left a note saying you must move this stuff, that it cannot stay. It stayed. Finally, I noticed one day that a condom wrapper was sitting atop my note. The stuff went in the trash that afternoon.

  • There has been a homeless person living under our neighbor’s porch since we moved to Petworth three years ago. Other neighbors tell me he is related to the residents of the house and lost his own place nearby. He doesn’t bother anybody, and we haven’t involved the police – we haven’t experienced any crime attributable to him. We did give him some pillows/blankets, etc last winter when it was so cold. It’s amazing that he’s survived so many winters and summers outdoors and fully exposed to the elements.

    Many of these folks are seriously mentally ill, have drug problems, and have likely made some bad choices in life – but have also slipped through the cracks of our very flawed mental health and social service system. As far as I see it, it’s a sign of a much bigger problem in this city and the US in general.

  • It’s hard to say what I would do, but seeing as how we live down the street from the Central Union Mission, I would probably encourage the homeless person to take up residence there, or would talk to one of the folks at the Mission and see if they could assist the individual. I wouldn’t let the individual remain there, but I also couldn’t see involving the police unless there was a more serious issue–crime, defacement of property, etc.

  • I’m amazed at the tolerance of some of you. If there was someone asleep under my porch that I didn’t know, I’d be on the phone to 911 immediately. If they had the audacity to store their crap on my property I can assure you they’d be retrieving it from the trash can.

  • I actually have a homeless couple living out of a car that is parked on the corner of my house. They are pleasant people, just a little unnerving when I leave out in the morning for work (5:45 am) and have to pass their car to get to mine! I figured they got used to seeing me because they would say hello (time to time). So I got comfortable with them. The HUGE problem I have is the smell from the car (the stink is unbearable sometimes) and sometimes trash that accumulates around the car (which I politely ask them to pickup… and they do). Sometimes the guy sweeps the sidewalks/cuts grass/bushes and my husband will give him some money. Since he is on the city streets and DC does not have any loitering laws, what else can I do?

  • This city has an unusual number of homeless people, some of whom are particularly aggressive. I have a friend who was followed by and hit over the head by a homeless man (note: the police did NOTHING). I would likely want the homeless person to move along, especially if there were single women in the building.

  • EmoEmu is so right on – what on earth are you people doing allowing homeless people to live under your house? I presume you worked very hard for every penny it took to buy that house and then you allow a homeless person – who may have mental problesm, drug addicitions, diseases and so forth – to live under your home? unbelieveable – i’m shocked. by allowing them to live under your porch you are doing nothing to help these people get off the streets and back functioning as a part of, not apart from, the rest of society.

  • Just as an aside, the other day on the same corner, I saw a homeless type, an American, begging for money. Next to him was a very indigenous looking Mexican or Guatemalan, who probably spoke little or no English, selling flowers.

  • I work very hard for my money? Thats a laugh. My job deals with trading securities, its risky, but it pays ridiculously well. I guarantee any homeless person works much harder to get by than I do.

    Many days I’m off work by noon and my afternoons entail attending a cubs game (I live in Chicago now, went to school in DC), partying in Lincoln Park, or reading by the beach.

    If your homeless, you priorities are not be harassed by the law (any they are), finding shelter, and finding your next meal. Its tough to walk a day in their shoes.

  • Yes life is tough for the homeless. But it’ll be a whole lot less tough if they don’t put their shoes under my porch. There are shelters in this town that they can, should they choose to do so, could use. Personally I don’t feel bad at all excluding vagrants from my property. As an aside, the homeless problem in DC has less to do with economic circumstance and more to do with mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction.

  • There’s a homeless guy that occasionally sleeps in the foyer area (between a set of locked and unlocked doors) in my girlfriend’s Adams Morgan apt bldg. The first time she woke up and saw him sleeping there, she was afraid to leave for work. The second time, she woke him up and fed him breakfast. Not incredibly smart, but I guess it’s better to feed the guy than not.

  • I vote Democrat most times, but blaming Ronald Regan? Are you mad? That guy was out of office for over a dozen years!

    All you people with homeless persons on your stoop- take them in or take them to a shelter/medical facility. People freeze or die of heat exhaustion, you know?

  • People in this city are far too tolerant of the bums in this city, that

  • I asked a cop friend what he would do with the homeless person in my backyard and he said he would drive him across the river to Anacostia, take his shoes so he couldn’t walk back, and dump him out.

  • Wow. Your cop friend is a really klassy piece of work, I must say.

  • Wow, I had no idea my previous post inspired such a conversation. I hope it’s not too late to chime in! (I was off enjoying a beautifully sunny holiday weekend and missed this entire thread!)
    I’ve struggled with this issue for years. My heart goes out to the homeless. I cannot judge someone who is in a situation I cannot possibly understand. I doubt any child says, “When I grow up, I want to be homeless”.
    That said, I also feel uncomfortable knowing this man was apparently living in a small nook of our building’s “stoop”. I never saw the man, but others in the building did. He left all his belongings in a bag there, and he turned off our electricity one night. (Don’t even ask me WHY our electricity switches are in the front of the building, completely exposed). A neighbor called the cops to have his things removed, they said there was nothing they could do. I spoke to a few neighborhood cops (strangely enough, at a bar one night), and they said that any cop who said that was wrong, that at the very least they could come remove the man’s belongings from our property.

    I wish the man no harm. I believe, at the very least, he should be given the option to find a shelter. But I don’t think that our front stoop is the appropriate place for him to store his things and camp out from time to time.

    That’s my story. Not too fascinating, but apparently somewhat thought provoking.

  • As previously mentioned, many homeless people suffer from mental illness so the whole “get a job” mentality that some of you seem to have is utterly and completely useless.

    Does this mean that you have to suffer a stranger living under your porch? Of course not. If the person refuses to move on, or gets aggressive, then call the authorities to take action. But it seems particularly sadistic (and shameful) to throw another person’s possessions in the trash.

  • Odentex,
    I, too, am surprised at how callous some of the responses were. However, what do you recommend in such a situation? It appeared the man abandoned his things on our front walkway in a trash bag. His bag remained there for at least a week or two after the last time he was seen. It was not clear if he’d return, and we did contact the proper authorities. You say it was both saidistic and shameful for the building residents to throw away his possessions. So should we have just let them sit on our front walkway forever, especially when the police told us they could do nothing about it but recommended we throw the bag away?

  • The house next to mine is abandoned and a homeless guy decided to make its front stoop his home for a few days. Not a big deal, but I was aware of it, let him know I was aware of it, and then let him know that I own 2 dogs. I didn’t do anything the least bit nasty or confrontational, just let them out into our (fenced) yard when he was out there- I hoped that he would think twice about coming onto our property or making the stoop his permanent home.

    Homeless people have often taken up residence inside the abandoned home and we have had to be hard asses on that one because of this simple fact: people in a building with no heat or electricity need heat to keep warm and light to see by and they often get those things by building a fire. Especially if those people have mental health issues or drug issues, it is not hard to imagine such a fire getting out of hand and spreading to neighboring homes.

    In my opinion, the best way to keep homeless people from camping out in your zone is to limit/prevent access to likely sleeping/hidey places. I have called 311 many times to replace the boards on the windows and doors next door. If you have a porch, board up the underneath. If you live in a condo that has spaces that could attract homeless people, bring it up to the condo assocation- it is a security issue and should be dealt with as such.

    I’ve also thrown someone’s stuff out after waiting a long time for them to come back for it and wouldn’t bust someone else for doing the same. While I felt justified in doing it, tossing a bag whose meager contents might be the totality of someone’s possesions also made me feel like complete and total crap.

  • Fair enough CH Chic, I’m not saying you need to create The Shrine of the Abandoned Hefty, it just seemed like there are a few folks genuinely excited about throwing out a homeless person’s belongings and spreading broken glass on the ground.

    Perhaps I could bring one of Mike Vick’s former dogs around for some of these commentors to kick also.

    Look, if I felt a vagrant was truly a danger, was stealing, or aggressive when I requested them to leave, then I’d call MPD rather than wait for a major problem.

    But as the hippy carpenter of Nazareth said, we’ll be judged on how we treat the least among us… even if it’s only Oden that judges you. 😉

  • Get over yourselves. Most of these people are mentally ill and/or have some serious addiction issues. Allowing them free reign to do as they please with no judgment is not a help to them. If they leave there crap on my porch or my walk it will get thrown in the trash. I don’t get excited about it, rather I just don’t want a bunch of crap in my front yard. As for colheights, somebody shuts off my electricity, I won’t be waiting for the cops. He would be forcibly evicted and his crap thrown after him. Good lord people. Its not ok to live on someone else’s front porch. Its not an issue of “tolerance” it simply is not ok. If you’re having a crisis of conscience call the Mission or some other social services agency and have them send someone out to talk to the person in question. I think you’ll be surprised at the response.

  • you can call, rachaels womens center 202 682 1005. they have a “street out reach program” that works with men and women. they may be able to stop by and engage the person and mke him or her aware of their program. if they dont work in that area or it is a particularily challaging situation they can put you in contact with others to help.

  • also in very cold weather you can calll the hypothermia hotline 1 800 535 7252 and they can be picked up. this may take some patience and assertiveness as in things run by the service can be inconsistent, but there are some very caring people doing good work so give it a try !!

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