Friday Question of the Day – What is Your Opinion of Franklin Square Park?

A couple of folks have mentioned this in passing on previous posts but we’ve never addressed it directly. Basically, it is my understanding, that there used to be a lot of homeless in the McPherson Square park before it got fixed up. Today, in the nearby Franklin Square (14th and K St, NW) there are a lot of homeless people in the park. Others have mentioned that parks are for all people including the homeless. So I’m just curious what people think about Franklin Square nowadays? I know office workers used to eat lunch here all the time in the nice weather – does that still happen? Has the large number of homeless people in the park changed how often you visit it? Does the city need to step in with a more aggressive outreach program?

So for the Friday Question of the Day – what is your opinion of Franklin Square park? Can/should anything be done to improve its appeal?

View Larger Map

74 Comment

  • Biggest problem I ever had there were the overly aggressive squirrels.

  • The homeless cleared out when the Franklin shelter closed in 2008.

    • No, it got worse because they have nowhere to regularly go. Charities feed the homeless out of that park, so many just stay there waiting for food. I worked next to the shelter and when it closed, the park homeless population went up because they staked their spaces and didn’t want to leave them.

    • It seemed that way for a very short time, but it’s now basically completely occupied by homeless people.

  • Franklin still has quite a few homeless folks, as does McPherson. I’ve had 2 unpleasant encounters at Franklin: one walking through the park with my mom wherein my mom was called something rather nasty as we walked by; the other involving a plastic bottle of some sort thrown at my feet at high velocity. The bottle missed my feet, but that’s not the point. I don’t go through that park anymore. I just walk along the edges. I’ve had zero problems with anyone at McPherson Square.

  • Franklin Park in the weekday is very different than on the weekend. During the weekday there is a variety of everything. On the weekend you can see the sheets laid out later in the morning and the reality that people live there is much more apparent. The only thing that has annoyed me are the people who ask me where Eye St is.

    • this. the park is fairly tame during weekday business hours. in the evenings and weekends the homeless people pretty much take it over. either way i’ve never had any problems with anyone there

  • It’s a beautiful park, but I worked next to it for a year and a half and cold never fully enjoy it because if the homeless people – I had two bad experiences and female coworkers with similarly bad experiences. too much public urination so the park smells terrible, it’s covered in trash, and I never felt safe there. I avoided walked through it because of my bad experiences.
    It’s a shame – I believe everyone deserves a safe place to stay if they’re homeless (and added assistance to try to get off the streets should they choose) but in turn, the park isn’t a place most people can enjoy because of it.

  • I disagree with the statement that “parks are for all people including the homeless”. Yes, parks are for all people, but when I say people in this sense, I tend to think of citizens who pay taxes to keep parks clean and groomed. I refuse to sit on public benches because I have seen homeless guys urinating on them; you can’t unsee that. I generally think that parks are a good idea, but having lived at 12th & Mass and having to deal with all of the homeless in Burke Park on a daily basis, I’ve lost all sympathy.

    • A homeless man once told my former coworker that she was beautiful, look at her all creepy, then told her he liked women with thick ankles.

      • I had a guy tell me that as I was walking up 18th street in Adams Morgan one evening after work. WTF?

    • I live at 11th and Mass and I feel like I don’t see all that many homeless in Burke/Gompers. Many more down in that park at 11th/12th and NY Ave, whatever it’s called.

      • I’ve seen homeless taking a dump in Gompers at night TWICE!

        It would be great to live near that spot if you had a dog, so you could take them somewhere to drop a load. I would never sit in there or let a kid attempt to play on the patch of grass.

        • Wow. I guess I’m just not looking very carefully when I walk home at night. Here’s hoping the new 10th street park stays clean enough for kids.

        • ledroittiger

          I wish it was just homeless people who relieve themselves in public places…The acrid stench of urine in the alleyway next to The Capoeira Spot on T St. and the piles of fecal matter in the north part of Wiltberger next to the Howard Theatre is causing me a permanent gag-reflex everytime I walk to the metro or the BikeShare dock. I don’t mind the public drinking, but emptying of bowels is bound to happen when all you do all day is sit on the corner and brown bag MGDs and Hennesey.

    • So, you believe people are not allowed to use public spaces unless they have permanent housing?

      If you think homeless people should be prohibited from physically being present even in public places, doesn’t that mean you don’t think they have a right to even physically exist?

      Your objectification of these human beings and the dismissal of homeless as simply a nuisance, as if they were animals, is deeply disturbing.

      What if all the people like you who seem to want to shove the homeless away into a landfill rather than have to acknowledge their existence engaged in some activism in support of affordable housing and treatment programs–the things that can actually address homelessness?

      What if you thought of them as HUMAN BEINGS in need of help, rather than as trash to be pushed out of sight?

      • Yup that’s exactly what I think /rolls eyes/

        Did I say that I don’t want homeless people to have help or charity? No. They can go to a shelter and find help and get back on their feet. Sitting in a park, servicing themselves, urinating on public property is not helping themselves. There are services available to help these people so that hopefully they can become a tax-paying citizen and help out in the future, or get the help that they need.

        • I think you need to educate yourself about the extent of services there are for the homeless in DC (or any other city, for that matter). If the type of services you describe existed, that would be great. They don’t. In fact, DC is shutting shelters as we speak, opening some only during the winter. If you can tell me where the people in Franklin Square can get the services you described to “get back on their feet,” a process that would involve treating their mental illness, I gladly will go to the park and inform enery one of them myself.

          • oh I’m sorry I can’t provide these services myself. I assumed there were shelters available. If they’re not up to par, is that my fault? I don’t live in DC anymore so I can’t vote people in or out to help with this situation. jesus people.

            I apologize, I don’t know everything, as opposed to everyone else that knows all of this.

          • Actually, you’re only correct with respect to publicly funded shelters. Private services and/or shelters for the indigent -ie. charity based- are available throughout the city.

            For example, Central Union Mission. So, please spend some time in that park this weekend informing the homeless men there that services -help- is available at Central Union Mission (1350 R Street, NW).

        • That would be great, but DC closes most of the shelters when it’s not winter time due to budgetary concerns. And every year there are less and less private charitable organizations running shelters. The truth is that the homeless flood the parks because they literally have nowhere else to go. That doesn’t excuse public urination/defecation/drunks but where would you suggest the homeless go if there is no shelter space for them?

          • How do you know they flood the park cause they have nowhere else to go and that some or even many don’t just prefer being in the park rather than in a shelter?

        • Then start advocating for and donating to mental health treatment, drug treatment, expanded affordable housing, and increased shelter space instead of complaining about how people with nowhere else to go have the audacity to use one of the few spaces in this city where they have a right to physically exist without being charged with trespassing.

          Or, you could just continue to try to push these people who desperately need help out of sight so you don’t have to think about them–or the real consequences of your ignorant demands.

  • I think dc’s no loitering laws are humane and good, but I’m just gonna say it, this park is completely ruined by homeless people. why are we relegated to dupont and logan and the homeless get this gorgeous park? how do other cities do it??

  • Its either homeless people in the downtown parks, or sexual deviants in Rock Creek — take your pick!

    mv’s got a good point: My tax dollars go to maintaining these parks, but I’m too grossed out to enjoy any of them. That’s downright ridiculous.

    • Even if the homeless did leave the park, you couldn’t pay me to sit on those benches until they were disinfected first. The smell coming from many who sleep on the benches is putrid!

  • I work across the street. It seems that after the homeless shelter closed, the # of homeless in that park spiked for a while but now it seems as though the numbers have dwindled. I never sit on the benches in that park as I’ve seen too many homeless urinating while they remained seated in the bench. The food trucks have brought scores of office workers to the park for lunch. I see many office workers sitting in the park to eat and I wonder about how much dried urine and god knows what else they are sitting on.

  • I’ve worked at 12/K for the last 6 years and have mixed feelings re Franklin Square. Could definitely stand some fancying up, ala Rittenhouse in Phili, if it wanted to become more of an attraction. Some parts of it smell more of urine than others. Has some absolutely gorgeous trees that you won’t find anywhere else downtown (or in any other downtown, for that matter).

  • I think its a beautiful park, especially due to its size, tree cover and being surrounded by some nice architecture. That said, I feel it is too distant from residential areas for people to enjoy it. It’s more of a downtown-type park and less a neighborhood park. Thus perhaps the dominance of the ‘non-resident’ homeless population on the weekends.

  • The park seems to be mostly homeless people scattered about during business hours, except when there are some food trucks there to lure in the office crowd. It doesn’t smell like urine, though. It’s a park, not a dark unventilated stairwell.

    I don’t know what people expect from the park that it doesn’t presently provide. Plenty of shade. There’s always plenty of room on the grass, which is well-fed and green. And there are a million benches.

    • A safe, enclosed playground. There are none in the area.

      • At 14th and K? Why do you need a playground there? There are also a complete lack of safe enclosed playgrounds in the HOV lanes of the 14th Street Bridge.

        • There are no playgrounds in the downtown area – not in Penn Quarter, Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Mount Vernon Square, City Center, or on the Mall. There are lots of kids in the area, and there is a need for a playground. Franklin Park is one of the only large park areas that are not in the middle of an intersection, and a playground – if properly constructed and maintained – would be well-used.

      • I can’t think of something we need less in Franklin Square, except maybe for a dog park.

        • If you care about the children that live downtown, you should at least acknowledge that there are a lot of children in daycares. Daycares in DC are required to have the children outside for at least 2 hours a day, yet there are no playgrounds for them to take the kids. Thus, the children end up walking around the streets for hours with nowhere to actually go. These children should not have to walk aimlessly everyday.

          • I believe most downtown daycares have their own playgrounds. At least any I would send my child to. I appreciate the efforts to keep DC rated as the most kid-friendly city in the world, but we don’t need a playground on every corner in the business district. And I’d be interested in seeing a census count for the number of children living within a half mile of 14th and K. I’ll go with 7.

          • Are there no workhouses? Just kidding. You make a good point. There are few residents in that area compared to the rest of the city, but there are daycares so giving those kids a place to play instead of walking around the block 10 times makes sense.

          • Most of the daycares actually do not have playgrounds. The federal daycares do, but the rest do not. That is why you see the children wandering around in large strollers or on strings.

            Although there are not many children living within a block of Franklin Square, there are many living in the general area, and more are being born all the time. The population statistics on give some insight into how residential the area has become, and how much more residential it is expected to become:

            Downtown DC residents increased by 46% from 38,000 in 2000 to 56,000 in 2010, and there are expected to be 65,400 residents in the by 2015. More than 1/3 of downtown DC residents are between the ages of 20 and 34. Many of those residents have been having children and many will be in the coming years. Many are choosing to stay and raise their children here, and there needs to be a playground for those children.

            The issue is not whether we need a playground on “every corner in the business district,” it is whether we need even one playground in the downtown area. Right now there is not a single playground.

          • Anonymous –

            You say that any daycare you would send your kid to would have a playground? Good luck with that! It’s clear that you are not a parent, or you would realize that getting into ANY daycare in DC is a mind-numbingly frustrating process.

            And, many of the best ones don’t have playgrounds at all, so they go play on some concrete or wander over to a park and play in the dirt next to homeless people.

            I’m not saying that DC should build park playgrounds so that Federal or private daycares can use them, but it is kind of sad that there are no playgrounds downtown unless they;re hidden behind the walls of a Federal building.

            Not to start a whole “NY vsDC” thing, but when you go to NY, you see really nice playgrounds in Washington Sq., Union Sq. (pretty recent), Tompkins, etc. DC is supposedly more family/kid-friendly (and it is) than NYC, but Franklin Sq. could easily set aside 5-10% of its space for a playground. As it is, it’s just a waste of space, and they should sell it to a private developer if they’re going to let it be overgrown and unusable by anyone except the homeless.

          • I am a parent. And my child goes to daycare in Maryland since my wife works there and it’s impossible to get into a daycare in dC. Which probably summarizes nicely the sorry state of downtown daycares. Never realized it was that bad. My office daycare has a nice playground but it’s a Federal building. More playgrounds for all! (and dog parks)

  • How in the hell do these homeless people live for so long?

  • I generally avoid Franklin Square. I was once waiting for the bus at the corner of 14th and K and witnessed a man, fully exposed, standing there peeing in the middle of the grass.

  • While walking home from work I witnessed a homeless man “servicing himself” in Franklin Park. To say I was upset or disgusted is beyond an understatement. Nuff said.

    • Would you be happier if it was a homeless dude getting fellated by a homeless looking aging prostitute? (Well, that’s not fair. She might not have been a pro. Maybe they were really in love.) Broad daylight, Dupont Circle, about three years ago. Cross my heart.

    • ROFL
      I love how naive most are that assume that all men who “service themselves” in public parks are “homeless”.

  • Parks are for everyone? Do homeless people pay taxes? Maybe they do and I’m ignorant to this fact and many others…just a thought.

  • God forbid that anyone have to be reminded that being homeless is a terrible way to live. Instead of talking about solutions, let’s just talk about the inconvenience that homelessness causes us. Amazing.

    • Well, the question was: “what do you think of the park”, so this is what people think of the park.

      • I can’t disagree with your response. I just find the callousness I’ve read here sad. Hopefully we can get back to talking about the real issues, like when is Eckington going to get an Argentine-Thai fusion restaurant?

  • The Heights – No one is talking about “solutions” because we’ve tried solutions, and they have failed. Its been close to fifty years since we tried to create a “Great Society,” and the social problems these programs were meant to address remain. The only thing that does work is making people accountable for that actions. If they cannot conform to basic levels of human decency, then kick them out of public spaces, as Giuliani did in New York. People, even homeless people, respond to incentives. Urban space should be for everyone, not just those who are able to gross out, or worse, law abiding tax-payers.

    • I was going to reply to The Heights, b/c I disagree, but I only have a minute so I have to reply to you instead. This has nothing to do with the Great Society. Almost all of the homeless that we are talking about here have serious substance abuse and/or mental health issues. In the past, long before the Great Society, people like this would have been involuntarily committed to a large state facility (sanitarium, like the old one in Crownsville). Those type of places had alot of problems, they were pretty horrific sometimes. So, instead of fixing the problem with state treatment, the decision was made to just put everyone out on the street to sink or swim. I could go on for awhile, but don’t have the time.

    • Are you serious? What does the problem of homelessness have to do with the Great Society? In order to make people “conform to basic levels of human decency” or be “law-abiding tax-payers” it’s necessary to have basic mental faculties. Many, if not most, of the homeless population in DC suffers from mental illness. If you want them to become the people you want them to be, they need help. If you’d like to conform to your own standard of “basic human decency” (something your callous response certainly does not), then advocate for programs that treat mental illness and give the people that are now homeless a real shot at a more decent life.

      • The Heights,

        It’s incorrect to assume that people who advocate for a park w/o a lot of homeless people in it are against the homeless. You’re mixing apples and oranges and sounding awfully self-righteous. Do I want homeless people living in a park? No. Am I willing to pay for social programs? Yes. You seem to be arguing that these two beliefs are incompatible for a moral being.

        • thank you. well said.

        • Of course they are compatible. I subscribe to both.

          The problem is with people like mv and others here who look at homeless people in a park and don’t have the reaction of, “How can our society accept that people live in these conditions? How can I help?”

          Instead, their self-centered reaction is, “Ugh, what are these pests doing in my park? How dare their need for a place to rest and simply exist impose upon my desire for a perfect urban aesthetic!”

    • Not sure how you hold someone “accountable” for having a mental illness that makes it impossible for them to function normally in society. A lot of homeless have mental illnesses and they are on the streets because of deinstitutionalization – which was in large part about allowing the mentally ill to make and be responsible for their own choices.
      I lived in NYC under Guiliani. All he did was move the homeless to places where they were least likely to be seen. And if you talk to homeless advocates in this area, they’ll tell you that that is the strategy that the DC government has been implementing. With the closing of the Franklin Square Shelter, the remaining shelters are far away from downtown DC and the places where suburbanites and tourists would be more likely to come in contact with them.

      • And why is that bad, exactly? The homeless don’t need the downtown offices. They can’t afford the downtown restaurants. I don’t think proximity to museums is their priority.
        If a city has the choice between sheltering homeless people in busy areas where they discomfit and harass other people and misuse public goods, or sheltering them in less-populated areas… why is it bad to choose the latter? Is the concern about decreasing their panhandling revenue?

  • POP – where was this question when the city was voting on the budget for the last month and it was proposed that homeless services get $20 M dollars cut. If this cut had passed, it would have resulted in emergency shelters ONLY being open in the winter time during hypothermia season.

    Thanks to the homeless services advocacy world $17M was reinstated for the final vote on the budget.

    You are right that more aggressive outreach makes a difference but when there are few jobs and an inaccessable renters market it is difficult for those with low incomes to make ends meet.

    Everyone gets to use the parks. If we want nicer parks for WHATEVER reason being present at council and budget hearings is a great way to get the City Goverment to look at the budget and their priorities differently.

  • I worked in a nearby office building last summer. There’s an odd thing that happens here at lunchtime sometimes. A bunch of teenagers, I believe they are Chinese, come to the park and sleep on the benches. On the order of a dozen or so. I’ve wondered about that.

  • Oh heavens, I just hope no homeless people read these comments and get offended.

    But for the record, I walk through it every day and most of the park is dominated by a urine stench. Sitting down on one of those benches should’ve been a stunt on Fear Factor

  • Franklin Square needs a lot of TLC. This park like all of our parks and circles should look a lot more like Philly’s Rittenhouse or NY’s Central Park. There is no reason we have to settle for dead grass, weeds, no flowers, empty fountains, etc. We should have nicer fixtures, better walkways and paths with brick, pavers, stone, etc, and green, thick grass. If everybody would start contacting your councilmember, write our DC delgate Eleanor, or any other grassroots methods, we could possibly get the NPS to spend some money on our parks or give them to the city who will do a much better job at maintaining them. The Feds are never gonna do much for DC.

    • Good point. I learned yesterday that a lot of great parks in other cities are funded by conservancies in which people who live on the park or businesses nearby or whomever are charged a certain amount for its upkeep since they benefit by being on it. DC doesn’t do this sort of thing cause we’re DC.

      I’ve often wondered what the city would do if I just planted some flowers in a park.

    • “The Feds are never gonna do much for DC.”

      except maintain the reason the city exists and all that. but whatever.

    • Good luck with getting a response from Eleanor Holmes Nortons office.

  • Walking through that park is like running the gauntlet if you are a woman. I made the “mistake” of wearing a sundress and cutting through the square to the McPherson metro – it was like an a cappella choir of sexual harassment.

Comments are closed.