At What Point Does This Situation Become a Blight?

Back in Oct. ’10, Danny Harris, wrote a People’s District post for PoP about ‘Michael on Finding His Heritage’. I think people will agree it was fascinating and more than a bit sad to learn about the man, Michael, who resides on the corner of 14th and Corcoran St, NW. And I really don’t mean to be callous in asking the question but I couldn’t help but notice the corner seems to be turning into an eyesore. I know there is a homeless shelter (Central Union Mission) for the time being a half block north. The amount of material on the corner seems to be growing. Well, I’ll just get straight to the question – at what point, if any, do you think Michael’s belongings need to be contained or removed?

54 Comment

  • The man is obviously seriously mentally ill. He clearly needs to be given treatment, possibly in an institution, and the corner should be cleaned up. From both a liberal, compassionate viewpoint, and a conservative, orderly streets perspective, Michael really shouldn’t be living on a street corner with a huge pile of possessions. The situation as it exists does not reflect well on us as a species. I’m just not sure what can be done, or by whom?

    • me

      Just because he’s homeless doesn’t mean he’s obviously mentally ill. I’ve had a few conversations with him and have always found him to be quite pleasant. He seemed all there to me.

      • As a person who has worked in mental health for a long long time, I can say that this person clearly suffers from many imbalances. Statistically, 1/3rd of people who are homeless are suffering from an Axis 1 mental health disorder. A large remaining proportion are suffering from addiction. Regardless of where he falls on the spectrum…if this gentleman was “all there” he wouldn’t be cultivating a garbage farm on the middle of a busy sidewalk.
        Finally…Don’t encourage/enable him with your patronizing conversation. He sits there because he wants that kind of attention… I bet if everyone ignored him… he’d move on.

  • 1) If he’s not bothering anyone why does he need to be an institution?

    2) Do you understand the cost of housing someone in a mental institution? Hundreds of thousands a year. In case you haven’t noticed, paying taxes is out of vogue.

    3) Belongings may be an issue, is he interested in housing? I bet there are a number of agencies outreaching him right now. There’s a well developed provider system in the city that a lot of folks don’t know about. He may even be waiting on damn DCHA right now for his set-aside voucher.

  • ” If he’s not bothering anyone why does he need to be an institution?”

    He’s living on the street in a city with a decidedly intemperate climate. He’s obviously not getting decent medical care, and in some ways the old system of mental institutions seems a more humane solution than our current practices, which are basically to do nothing. I’ll never understand why they closed down most of the nation’s mental institutions in the 1970s and 80s, and kicked everyone out onto the streets, instead of reforming the admittedly troubled institutions.

  • Thank God CUM is not moving to Petworth. The only reason this blight is on that corner is because they are at 14th and R. It is hurting people, its hurting businesses, the man may or may not be mentally ill, but he has a shelter he could stay at just steps away and chooses not to. I bet he gets his meals there….no excuse for this.

    • Nice try! But there is absolutely no correlation between Central Union Mission and this man. Quite frankly, you simply don’t know what your talking about. This man is mentally ill, and, as a result, he refuses any and all help.

      Moreover, SHAME on Central Union Mission IF they feed him?

      What an asinine sentiment! What’s wrong with you?

      And, yes, it is wonderful that Central Union Mission is not moving to Petworth. Good for them! I wouldn’t want you for a neighbor either.

  • If anyone ever gets concerned that a homeless person they see needs help getting connected to mental health services you can always call the Dept of Mental Health Homeless Outreach office- (202) 671-0388. There isn’t a whole lot you can do when a person isn’t posing an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, and unfortunately there a far too many people with mental health, housing and medical needs who do not have any support.

  • Is it bad that I thought at first you were talking about all of the hideous green signs?

    • Yeah I thought you meant the green Zip car signs at first. I don’t think a human being can every be considered ‘blight’. That is a super callous and insensitive thing to say.

      Blight is a fungus that grows on plants. Blight in the urban sense means dilapidated buildings that aren’t properly cared for.

      It seems to me that you are more bothered by his possessions then the fact that he is homeless living on the street.

      • So are you offering to take him into your home?

      • easy, the blight was referring to the piles of crap, filth, and urine stench coming from the corner. not the human being.

      • “Blight in the urban sense means dilapidated buildings that aren’t properly cared for.”

        Nothing callous about that!

        It would be perfectly reasonable to say that the man is a bit “dilapidated” and lacks proper care…and to continue with the urban metaphor, that everyone (including him) would benefit from him getting undergoing some “renovations”.

    • That is way too many zip car signs for a given space.

      • Really? The signs let drivers know how many vehicles occupy a certain Zip Car lot, and it happens to be useful for those of us who drive them. Clearly you aren’t one… Way to hate on one of the most environmentally friendly/socially conscious businesses in DC!

    • I thought the same thing!

  • Looking forward to reading all 200 comments tomorrow on this post. From the ‘why can’t he just get a job’ crowd to the ‘we need more social services’ group.

  • Why can’t he just get a job at social services?

  • At least the tree has been pruned properly…been waiting years for tree trimming on my street.

  • There is a great misperception of the services offered by DC govt when it comes to mental health.

    1) mental health services,human services, and DCHA are there different depts and work independently.
    2) legally if the consumer is not a “danger to self or others”, he cannot be forcibly taken in for mental health treatment.
    3) there are no “institutions” in DC as some people indicate. If a person needs hospitalization he/she can be sent to a hospital for up to 2 weeks. After the 2 wks, if they have not improved then they will be sent to St Elizabeths for further stabilization. However even St Es has a time limit on how long an individual can stay hospitalized.
    4) Even if he is hospitalized there is no guarantee that he will be housed. He may be discharged back to the community or shelter.
    5) How do you know this person is mentally ill, there are several people out there who live on the street who are not mentally ill. AND there are many many people who live in homes who ARE mentally ill.
    6) call DMH’s Homeless Outreach Program at 202-671-0390 if there is a concern that he is “endangering self or others”.

  • I was going to offer an uninformed comment but I decided to check out the original post in Danny Harris’ blog first. I’m no expert in mental health issues but from what Michael said in that interview and the way he said it he does not appear to be mentally ill to me. He lives where he lives because he considers it to be less “claustrophobic” than the Central Union Mission shelter (which he lived in for some time). I don’t know that that view of a shelter makes him mentally ill. That’s not to say that he should be allowed to camp out on a sidewalk in the middle of the City. I am almost certain that this breaks some law or another. And for some reason or another, the authorities have decided not to force him to move. Though it’s hard for me to believe that he was allowed to stay outside during the ice and snow storms we had a couple of weeks ago.

    • And to answer the original question, it already is a blight – defined by Webster’s as “a deteriorated condition.”

  • Why doesn’t he just move into the C.H. 400 square foot studio mentioned in the other post?

    People around here can afford it.

    Let him eat cake.

  • Why doesn’t he just move into a fully-loaded SUV? Seems like Kwame has a few spare ones floating around.

  • I don’t know Michael but if this article is reffering to that pile of trash on the corner… well someone clean it up or call 311.


  • Like Bon Qui Qui @ King Burger says… “Oh no you need to go… saaacurity”

  • why don’t you leave him alone and mind your business

  • Eyesore for us – survival for him. If you are really that concerned about the eyesore, then you should do something to help him – posting your musings on the issue isn’t helping anybody, but it could potentially draw negative attention to a poor homeless man.

  • Because his business becomes the community’s business when he chooses to camp on a street corner.

    • Maybe we should help him and not judge him

      • how do you propose doing that?

      • If he’s mentally sane, as professed by some earlier, he’s sane enough to move along and not camp on the street.

        If he’s not, he needs to be moved into social services.

        Living on street is not a option. It’s dangerous for him and not acceptable for society to have people “living” on the streets.

  • There is currently a dumpster in front of the corner, which may mean it is being cleaned up?

    I am fine with this guy residing on the corner, but the amount of stuff piling up is becoming too much and too unsafe (e.g., it currently blocks and covers the fire hydrant).

    Maybe Gray should give him a job as Director of Stuff Protection? Oh wait, he’s white, so no chance of that.

  • give the guy some change

  • There are two sides to every story. Mike was a homeless person staying in the mission who as you can see is a PACK RAT. Staff had to finally tell him he could not keep compiling more stuff with no where to keep it and that he would have to either get rid of some of the stuff or not stay there. He would not get rid of the stuff and they stopped letting him stay there. He simply moved his stuff outside on the corner and lives there now. No one ever took his stuff or punched him. Logically speaking if he was so worried about people taking his stuff why leave it outside. It’s a bunch of junk no one wants. He himself shoud not want it. Several times i myself have heard him call black men at the mission NIGGERS and no one hit him nor was he thrown out. DO NOT MAKE A HERO OUT OF THIS PERSON. Also stop giving him stuff to enable him to stay out there instead of getting help.

  • It makes me sick to see this. There are too many able bodies abusing the public housing system, there is hardly in room on the waiting list for people who really need the government’s help.

  • FYI, the city has posted a notice on this corner they s “conducting a general cleanup” of the area on April 29th. As someone who lives in the neighborhood (less than a block away), I am relieved the pile is going, although I didn’t report it. Michael (I didn’t know his name until reading this) has never bothered or harassed me or my family and although his pile has grown out of control, I couldn’t bring myself to call the city. I guess someone did…

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