Dear PoPville – Continued Concern about Cobb Park in Mt. Vernon Triangle


“Dear PoPville,

As a resident of Mt. Vernon Triangle for three years, I am appalled at what has been allowed to occur by city officials and authorities for the past year on the entrance ramp to the 3rd Street Tunnel from Mass Avenue as well as over the past 6 months in Cobb Park/DPA 1089, located at 2nd/Mass, NW.

The entrance ramp for the 3rd Street tunnel, an area which I would consider a highly visible spot, has been occupied by anywhere from 1 to 5 tents at a time. This started around the time when the OccupyDC tents were removed from McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. As these tents have become abandoned over the past year, everything is left on the side of the road. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. The tents remain, broken down by weather, complete with an array of blankets, trash, beer cans, American flags, food wrappers and clothing, just to name a few items.

Four months ago, I witnessed three police officers on segues approach the tents when they were being occupied and I was thrilled that something was going to be done. The next morning, I drove by to go to a meeting and another tent had been added to the mix. As of today, the tents remain, some of the people remain, the trash remains and not a thing has been done to either help these people find a shelter or to clean up the mess that has been left behind.

I am convinced that the blind-eye that has been turned to these tents, has stemmed into the monstrosity known as ‘Cobb Park/DPA 1089’, which sits at 2nd and Mass Avenue, NW. For the past six months, this park has become unsafe and a terrible eyesore for the community. On any given day at any given time, you can witness the following


· People passed out face-down on the grass
· Grilling/BBQ’s – is this even allowed?
· Lawn chairs
· Large Umbrellas from Picnic Tables
· Mentally unstable and/or drug induced behavior
· Blankets strewn all over the park
· Tents
· A lack of clothing on most of the men
· Public urination
· Clothing hanging from hangers on trees!

Amazingly, this only covers a portion of what goes on in this park. People are there day and night. I have witnessed several zombie-like women and men trolling the street and sidewalks in the immediate residential areas loitering and asking for money.

I am one of multiple concerned residents of this area. I am a female that likes to walk my dog, take my dog to a local park where I feel safe, go for a daily run, walk home from Union Station when I travel and walk home from an evening out after dark. I do not feel safe doing any of these things within a block of this park. I, unfortunately, happen to live a block away from this park.

Where is the line drawn? Why has nothing been done and why does this problem continue to get worse? It might be their right to hang out in a park (to whatever extent that may be), but it is also my right to feel safe in the neighborhood where I live and work.”

73 Comment

  • What was once 14th Street’s problem, is now Mount Vernon’s problem.

    And yes, the city is allowing this. They could get these people out of here in a day, if they really wanted to. But they have to go somewhere and this is near the new Central Union Mission.

    You’re welcome.

  • Also, Cobbs Park is central to numerous homeless and halfway house services – CUM, DC Central Kitchen, Pathways Transitional Housing, and numerous nearby churches offering homeless services.

    The DC government has made Mount Vernon the ground-zero for DC’s homeless.

  • I mean who cares? Just because you think its an eye sore doesnt mean its right to just keep pushing people away and out or criminalizing their existence or criminalizing being poor. Have you gone to talk to the people? Do you know their story or are you just making judgements and assumptions about who they are? Would you offer to house them or help them find housing if they were to take the tents down and leave? The city doesnt have even half the capacity to take care of the homeless population around here.

  • Panhandling, tents and grills in parks, public urination and being in the park at night? Illegal. Other than that, you’re describing people sitting in parks, or laying on the ground in parks, with blankets, lawn chairs and umbrellas, and the men not wearing shirts. It’s a park. Crazy and/or homeless people get to use it too.

  • Yeah DC Central Kitchen has like men’s only shelter over there or something the homeless have to go somewhere. OP if you are so concerned about the homeless maybe you could board one or two of them.

  • Coming past this park on the X2 daily I’m amazed at how many people are apparently living (or at least spending their entire day) there; last evening there seemed to be at least 40 or more. From the bus windows I’ve also seen public defecation, what appears to be drug use, gambling (dice), etc. Like the previous post earlier in the week, I agree that there seem to be more and more people in the park over the last 3 months.

  • Yes!!! I have been meaning to post something on this site because I am at an absolute loss for what can be done since the police clearly do not care. It is appalling, it is unsafe and it is disturbing that nothing is being done. Visitors who live outside the City yet drive by that park to get to our apartment have commented without fail on “that sketchy park around the corner”. For an area that has made serious and vast efforts to “revitalize” and establish itself as a safe and tourist friendly part of the City, this is a HUGE step back. And what happens when the Walmart opens up across the street? Take another 10 steps back of progress? I cannot understand how this has become an accepted and ignored dirty “secret” in DC. Welcome to the nation’s capital.

  • Is there a Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association? Want to start one? That’s how Meridian Hill Park got cleaned up and restored.

  • I have to believe that Walmart is not going to allow this use of Cobb Park to continue if they hope to revitalize that stretch of H.

  • Certainly people are allowed to hang out but when there are 10+ tents and 30+ people at 2am with people clearly grilling and urinating it seems to cross a line past “hanging out”

  • Eh, people telling this woman to “get over it” or “let them move in with you” are being a bit harsh. What do you think would happen if the homeless setup camp in, say, the triangle on Mount Pleasant Road, Volta Park in Georgetown, or Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill? The limousine liberals of DC would have a sh#tfit and freak out. We’d never hear the end of it of PoP’ville.

    I agree that the homeless have to go somewhere and being poor/mentally ill isn’t a crime. But there are people who own homes in this area and this is a radical change. If anything, we should be pushing the DC government to use our tax money to get these people off the street and into rehabilitation or job programs. They shouldn’t be camping in the park, they should be in a bed.

  • I say combine your yuppie powers and keep pushing the homeless/poor to PG county or other Non yuppie areas of the city.

  • Seriously? The people who loiter in the park are hostile, unstable and appear to be looking for a fight. I’ve also noticed several carrying around baseball bats/heavy steel poles. I don’t think this is merely making a passing comment or judging folks who may have a deeper story. There is no story there. The loiterers in the park are bringing in chairs, tents, grills, coolers, etc. every single day. Weekend or not. Daytime or Evening. The neighborhood has worked so hard to become a desirable place to live, a place where tourists can feel safe and welcome. It is absurd that officers would turn a blind eye and adds to the joke that has become the District.

  • Agreed – I still see people sleeping and urinating in Logan Circle, but it’s not as common as it once was.

  • To everyone berating this poster, please – as a Logan Circle resident I know what this is like, and it’s not pleasant. Obviously being homeless is not an ideal situation, and I feel for these people. But having tons of homeless men right in your neighborhood, talking and yelling to themselves, urinating, throwing trash everyone – it’s not fun.

  • Also worth noting, these people do not appear to be homeless. Homelessness is much more apparent in the small park on Seaton park between 5th and 6th streets and Massachusetts Ave. It is not the same issue as Cobb park. Yes there are individuals sleeping in the morning on benches and yes they loiter throughout the day, but it is not an intimidation issue and they are simply using the open space during the day. The folks in Cobb Park camp out, they have places that they travel from and leave at some point in the late evening. They bring bikes, chairs, grills, coolers- they do not appear to be homeless or mentally ill.

  • So these are the remnants of the Occupy DC people who were in McPherson Square?

  • DC CapHill

    The answer is absolutely NOT to engage them in conversation. What are you hoping to achieve by suggesting that? “Concerned citizen stabbed and beaten at 2nd and Mass Ave”.

    What do they do with all the homeless before an inauguration? Because they all seem to disappear around that time, every time.

    Maybe get some funds together to hire a bus to displace them somewhere else. I’d vote Philly, but PG County is fine too. (That was sarcasm before the Internet Warriors jump on me.)

  • Where are the C*H*U*Ds when you need them?

  • @Idaho Ave – I have tried to talk to one of the people in that park, actually. I was walking by and noticed, in the middle of the day, that the guy lying face down in the park didn’t look like he was breathing. I walked over to rouse him and see if he was okay, and three angry guys came running over screaming “Leave him be, cracker! He don’t need no help from you! He just need to sleep off the stuff!”

    So, I did as they asked and left him alone, and just waited till I got to the corner to call 911 about the really sick guy (or possible dead body) in the park. I told them to send the cops *before* they sent an EMS crew so that this guy/body’s friends would let them near him.

    These people are likely all very nice young men and women, I’m sure, but most of what they are doing in that park is illegal, and should be addressed.

  • But there are relatively few of them and they haven’t pitched a tent village. When that happens in Rose Park, you know the whole thing will be disassembled in 10 minutes.

  • Call your ANC commissioner. That is what they are there for!

  • Comparing this to Rose Park is an utter joke. There’s a few stray homeless living on the downhill edge of Rose Park, practically living on Rock Creek Parkway. Furthermore, they tend to live alone and not in packs. If what’s happening in Cobbs Park happened in Rose Park, there would be a lot of heat from the bluebloods.

  • Who cares?? How about the people that live in the neighborhood. This isnt like any other park in DC I have witnessed before. Not only are homeless people hanging out/sleeping here but it seems that its a gathering place for people who live near by. This has become a major problem in MVT.

    • Emmaleigh504

      “Not only are homeless people hanging out/sleeping here but it seems that its a gathering place for people who live near by. ” So you don’t want people to use the park, not even people who live nearby?

  • Does anyone know if DC has undertaken anything like London’s Rough Sleepers Initiative? An earlier comment mentioned that kicking the homeless out of this park will lead them to going elsewhere, which intuitively makes sense, not tracking who is where makes a more robust strategy hard to work out. This may come off as Big Brother-y.

  • andy

    No one really believes that there is a good solution to what reduced these people to the state they are in. While we can move them, that would not solve their problems. They will eventually return, generally, to areas that serve people who are mentally ill and homeless. That area appears to be near your home. I am sorry that you have to deal with the problems they cause for you and your visitors.

    • DC CapHill

      NOTHING will solve the problems of the mentally ill outside of 24-hour monitoring and a boat load of anti-psychotic meds, and DC is aslo a “low barrier” city when it comes to not being able to hold anyone if they want to walk away from a place that could actually help them. Without power of attorney, you can’t have someone committed and held, even if it’s for their own good. I believe this should change, for the good of everyone involved. But that could be said for countless policies held by the DC Government.

      I wonder if you can call the DC Narcotics Street task force and say that you have witnessed open air drug use/sales, and have them come and bust up the party?

      If people were actually concerned about their fellow man, they wouldn’t be preaching leaving them alone to continue to rot and act in a despicable manner, they would actually try to help them, even if that means removing them from that area.

      • jim_ed

        (@ DC CapHill if this doesn’t nest correctly)

        Yep, its hard to involuntarily commit someone in DC. A few years ago I called the police because a homeless person appeared to be having a psychotic episode in the middle of the sidewalk on Capitol Hill. The police showed up really quickly, but simply moved the person along, saying there was nothing they could do since they weren’t being physically violent towards themselves or anyone else. The cops were really friendly, and chatted for a few minutes about how this person had been roaming the city for years, living outside, and was clearly in need of mental health services. It was sad and pretty sobering to see.

  • This was in response to Idaho Ave.

  • I’m sure there would be a much different reaction if the homeless “residents” at Rose Park started bbq’ing, hanging clothes in the trees, and passing out on the kids playground. I drove past this park on Sunday and actually thought it was some kind of sit-in/protest since it looks so established. If this park is a homeless gathering place, the city needs to take action to move people along at night – when by law the park is closed.

  • Okay, is this really Mt. Vernon Triangle/Square/whatever? The MVSNA doesn’t think so:

    Either way, there is definitely a safety issue as people really are wandering in and out of the streets. I’ve seen them, I’ve called the police to get them off the road. Stumbling around while the lights are green and people are trying to predict your movements is not okay.

    Encouraging people to “go and talk to them” is foolish vigilantism as its best. And do what? Get their life story? How does that help anyone if you have no resources to offer? They’re not social science experiments, and some are possibly dangerous. There are professionals trained in dealing with chronic homelessness, mental illness, addiction and the varies vulnerabilities in between that are paid by the city (not enough) to deal with this. Let’s be compassionate and not judge, but let’s also not be stupid and condescending with this “move to the burbs” BS. The person is writing precisely because she does NOT have that NIMBY attitude. There’s something to be said about the city’s response when an issue like this goes on for so long without attention.

  • Gotta agree. Some people pay $25 to go to WolfTrap and experience essentially the same thing.

  • “There is no story here.” – Thank you for the most heartless post of the day. You’ve earned it buddy!

  • With the economy and location of the facilities aiding the homeless concentrated there, expect to continue seeing this. When homelessness around downtown DC was more shall we say wide-spread for lack of a better word in the 1980-1990’s, the city/police didn’t do much then either.

    Penn. at Eastern Market and Seward Square has a bit of a problem because there is a non-profit in the Haines Building that feeds them at least in the AM during the week.

  • Cobb Park? How did it get the name?


  • That’s actually the point. DC wants visitors to see the homeless, have a heart, and beg their Congresspeople to do something about it.

  • Along the same lines, does anyone know if the kids always panhandling for money for their baseball group is legit? It doesn’t seem right to me that young kids would be darting through cars at a busy intersection for a good cause. I’ve also seen them out super early on weekdays and weekends. I googled their “organization” once and couldn’t find anything.

  • I am glad this issue is getting more attention… I wrote about this same issue to our local neighborhood blog last week, and my neighbors have had similar concerns, given that we experience this park on a daily/nightly basis:

    The issue has nothing to do with pushing homeless people or mentally ill people away from DC, or marginalizing their standard of living… it has everything to do with safety in our neighborhood day and night… This park was just recently revitalized, with extensive time and money spent beautifying it for the community… so far the only thing it has served is a campsite for loiterers, regardless of mental state or housing situation. As it is you can barely walk down H St from the Chinatown metro without passing homeless people passed out in the middle of the sidewalk, or get heckled while walking home — My parents visited this past year and my 60 year old mother was spit upon by a homeless person for no apparent reason — yet this activity continues to not only be allowed, but keeps expanding into parks like this one.

    No one should have to feel unsafe walking by a crowd of 30 homeless people who are BBQing, doing drugs, passed out face down in the grass, throwing trash on the ground — all at the same time day or night., especially when police drive by regularly or sit in their cars a few blocks away doing nothing.. My girlfriend and I were walking the dog a few weeks ago and one of those individuals was screaming at everyone and shaking his body with his pants and underwear down in the windows of all the first floor apartments in one of the buildings across the street at and passersby. That alone is unacceptable and warrants action, not to mention the countless other examples.

    I am personally embarrassed and insulted for the neighborhood employee who has to come and clean up after them every week — the poor guy actually has a job, trying to make ends meet likely making minimum wage, yet he is forced to clean up after people who are trashing a public place and doing absolutely nothing positive all day long. I drove by two separate times and watched him as he picked up trash, food, and lord knows what else off the grass and sidewalks well these people just chatted it up in groups or were sprawled out passed out from the night before.

    I imagine if my friends and I threw a huge BBQ in the middle of that park — getting wasted, throwing up and passing out, peeing on the benches — the police would respond swiftly and at the minimum fine all of us.

    • “I imagine if my friends and I threw a huge BBQ in the middle of that park — getting wasted, throwing up and passing out, peeing on the benches — the police would respond swiftly and at the minimum fine all of us.”


  • Good questions. The answer to homelessness should not just be, if I can’t see it then it isn’t a problem. Seems like a public park is just as good a place as any to be homeless.

  • It is not legit. They are secretly funding the Cardozo band, which is totally legit.

  • Weird. My replies are not posting in the right place.

  • According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the District had 6,800 homeless residents in 2013, a 1% decrease from 2012. See the Report “Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington: Results and Analysis from the 2013 Point-in-Time Count of Homeless Persons in the Metropolitan Washington Region”. Prince George’s County had a 7% increase with an overall 2013 homeless population of 686. I don’t want to claim easy solutions but seeing these people as residents of the city and understanding them both statistically and humanely might lift the discussion a bit.

  • I bus or bike past this park almost twice a day. I seriously doubt that this is a homeless tent city. It seems much more like a party spot for drug users. There’s always a large group hanging out, no one seems sober, and they have barbecues that come and go and coolers full of drinks. Franklin Square, on the other hand, is full of homeless, but they pretty much stick to themselves/their bench and don’t cause nearly the same ruckus as the group at Cobb Park.

    This isn’t about shoving the homeless population out, it’s about keeping our parks safe and clean.

  • Well since you’re so comfortable with the homeless, and since you acknowledge that there’s a capacity problem, why don’t we put more shelters and clinics in upper NW where (based on your name, I assume) you live? The writer never complained that these people exist – just that they are being disruptive. Spreading services out would help with that.

  • Edit – that was directed at Idaho Ave

  • I fully agree that this park is a concern. I have lived in the neighborhood for years and remember that a few years ago, no one was camping out there and there was even a group that came in and planted trees and cleaned it up. Sad to see it so overrun with this, I too don’t feel very safe walking by these individuals. It also becomes a health issue when you have people living there and defecating as it’s been reported…why is it ok for this to continue? Where are DC officials and Police on this? If I dropped trou in the middle of a neighborhood, I’m pretty sure I’d get arrested right away! There are places for these people to go, it’s not about criminalizing them, its about making sure they are in a place where they can receive medical and mental attention that they need and aren’t posing a danger to themselves and the surrounding community.

  • +1

    The comment “not a thing has been done to either help these people find a shelter,” is wrong. 1. The Department of Mental Health’s Homeless Outreach Team is aware of the situation. 2. You can’t MAKE someone go to shelter 3. You live in a city, a city has a diverse group of people, if you don’t like it volunteer, vote for more affordable housing and jobs or better yet, just move.

    • DC CapHill

      We should be able to MAKE someone get checked out mentally, and we also should be able to MAKE someone go to a shelter in lieu of living in a public space, which technically, is at least loitering and shouldn’t be tolerated. Unchecked aggression and a continued avoidance of being a member of rational society shouldn’t be an option, in 2013. Shouldn’t Society and or the Government be able to step in, when clearly someone needs it, and they have no other recourse in their lives? It serves a dual purpose: Cleaning up our streets, and getting people help that clearly need it. The constant “shoo’ing” them along, by the Police, is ineffective and no better than Joe Citizen looking the other way and also not helping.

      As someone who lost a friend and former colleague in DC, to the all too predictable “falling thru the cracks” syndrome propagated by the DC Government and their “checks and balances” social services, when are we going to step up and say “Right is right, end of.”

  • That was supposed to be in response to this posting:

    ‘Eh, people telling this woman to “get over it” or “let them move in with you” are being a bit harsh. What do you think would happen if the homeless setup camp in, say, the triangle on Mount Pleasant Road, Volta Park in Georgetown, or Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill? The limousine liberals of DC would have a sh#tfit and freak out. We’d never hear the end of it of PoP’ville.

    ‘I agree that the homeless have to go somewhere and being poor/mentally ill isn’t a crime. But there are people who own homes in this area and this is a radical change. If anything, we should be pushing the DC government to use our tax money to get these people off the street and into rehabilitation or job programs. They shouldn’t be camping in the park, they should be in a bed.’

  • two words…install sprinklers.

  • It’s our very own Hamsterdam.

  • you took the words right out of my mouth! hamsterdam indeed.

  • All — this is CM Wells’ area, and I have emailed his Chief of Staff to ask him to bring attention to the issue with Metro PD. This is also in ANC 6E07, Commissioner Alfreda Judd’s Single Member District. If you can contact them, that is how this issue will gain attention and action.

    This is not in Mt. Vernon Square per se, the issue definitely affects our neighborhood and residents, as many posters have noted. And while there is no easy solution for the poverty/homelessness/mental health issues presented, Metro PD has done little, if anything to address some of the more egregious illegalities at the Park (using the park as a toilet, drinking and gambling, fixed structure, etc.). We need that to change, and I will be continuing the effort to see the law enforced.

    Thanks everyone for your concern, and if you have further questions/comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are on Twitter I will be discussing the issue there as well.

    Matt Kozey

    At Large Board Member
    Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association

  • Clearly I didnt mean that. What I meant is that random people camp themselves there all day and night that I have witnessed involved in illegal activity. You want to go hang out in the park with them? Please go ahead.

  • Thank you for this well-written blog.

  • This was in response to Emmaleigh504. Replies dont seem to be going to the right place.

  • Thank you for acknowledging the working poor who make this city livable. It’s not fair to that guy. I hope he gets proper OSHA training on blood-borne pathogens.

  • Reply was to Dave.

  • You have a right a civil right as a paying member of society those others who are the permanent underclass must go.

  • I’m glad those homeless people are there. Hopefully more and more start to congregate. It makes it feel like home. I started printing off and handing out flyers that say “Free food in Cobbs park.”

  • The following was sent to my work e-mail. Its bad enough that teh Feds are involved now…

    NCR Employees,
    There have been recent concerns regarding potential criminal activities of individuals who are congregating in the park areas located near the 111 Massachusetts Avenue and 20 Massachusetts Avenue Headquarters buildings, primarily Cobb Park that is situation adjacent to our 111 Massachusetts Avenue facility. As a result, HQ OSI has been in contact with the DC Metropolitan Police (MPDC) to express the concerns regarding the safety of our employees and, in general, the activities that have been witnessed. This issue is of concern not only to USCIS but also to several other entities in the area who have expressed similar concerns to MPDC.
    As a result of the widespread concern, MPDC has assigned undercover officers to provide surveillance and they have adopted a Zero Tolerance policy for minor infractions in Cobb Park. To date, MPDC has made 20 arrests and they will continue to maintain constant patrols within the park and the surrounding area. The MPDC has also requested that the Department of Recreation post permanent signs indicating that Cobb Park closes at dusk and that no camping is allowed which would provide MPDC the ability to remove any individuals and/or structures within the boundaries of the park after dusk thereby providing further deterrent for these individual to congregate in the area.
    The MPDC also cautioned that USCIS employees should not get involved in an attempt to interrupt any potential criminal activity and to instead call 911 immediately. It is important that USCIS employees comply with this request from MPDC for their own personal safety. USCIS has adjusted the external facing security cameras so they are able to pick up activity in the park so the MPDC will have access to those tapes should any serious infractions occur.
    HQ OSI will continue to meet with MPDC to monitor the situation. If you have any continued concerns please raise them through your Directorate or Program Office.

    Office of Security and Integrity

  • I saw a cop talking to a group of people this morning, it didn’t seem to alarm any of the other folks still opening their coolers and grilling, BUT this is the best news I’ve read all day! Hopefully some order will be restored.

  • Appalling..LAWN CHAIRS?? Visible?? I’m APPALLED..OK, my last post for the day..maybe DC needs to have Work Regulations – when you live in DC and you’re at Work, you’re actually Required to Actually WORK!! Nobody works in DC, just more proof..

  • What a fool you are Those who live in the area have have a right to be safe around their own homes.

  • +1

    Those who live & work in this area have a right to be safe & unmolested that’s more important than vagrants’ “right” to live in a public park, preventing others from enjoying it.

  • +1000 for anyone who makes a “Wire” reference

  • Says the guy whose “job” is just reposting events of other people on a poorly designed website?

  • ^ for Charlie Adler, Mr “TasteDC” lol

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