From the Forum – Homeless Person Sleeping Under My Neighbor’s Porch?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Andrei Sinioukov

Homeless Person Sleeping Under My Neighbor’s Porch?

“So, we just closed on a house in Petworth today (yay!). While we were waiting for our realtor to show up for the final walk-through, I wandered under the front porch and happened to notice that it appears that someone is living under our neighbor’s front porch. There was a lot of debris piled up near the entry, but past that, I could see a line with clothing hanging on it like a curtain, a pillow, and a bunch of boots lined up. My s.o. thinks I am insane and that it’s just trash. Have others encountered this?”

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34 Comment

  • The house is occupied? Have you tried asking your neighbors about it? Not trying to be snarky. Just wondering. May not be the best way to introduce yourself. In any case, I’m not terribly surprised.

  • That photo is so great, in part because my former neighbors sometimes kept a chicken under their porch. They fed it through the basement window. We called the chicken Bubbles. You know, from the Wire? From when his sister let him live in the basement, but never let him come upstairs?

  • I’m assuming the house is the type that has a front entrance to the basement with a little courtyard. Our block is houses like this and our neighbors definitely have a ton of crap piled up in the little basement courtyard- kids toys, garbage bags of what I assume are clothes, etc. I never really paid much attention since the house is occupied. I’d worry a lot more if it’s vacant.

  • Maybe the owner lost his keys.

  • I live on Lamont ST and there was a homeless guy living under the back porch of my neighbor across the alleyway. He had no idea and neither did I until I saw the guy going under the porch late at night and called the cops because I thought someone was breaking into my neighbor’s house. The guy had a whole set up under there and the cops thought he had been there for awhile. They were also on a first name basis with the guy.

    • Wow, how did you neighbor have no idea? Was it one of those porches that just has crawl space under it and not an entrance to the basement?

  • Yeah — the key question here is whether the house next door is occupied. If it’s not, then it seems pretty clear that someone is camping out there. If it _is_ occupied, then things get more complicated. There might be someone camping out there unbeknownst to them, but it’s also quite possible that that’s their own stuff — perhaps they are eccentric and/or (literally) trashy.

  • As a new homeowner who also discovered some, ahem, surprising things just after settlement, I’d suggest making a friendly effort to meet your neighbors. Not just to find out more about this person, but to get a better sense of what’s happening on your street generally and to find out how neighbors handle these things. I found out, for example, that my street and neighborhood have their own Yahoo groups that discuss all kinds of things, and it’s also a way to find out about ongoing outreach with the police and ANC. If your street/neighborhood doesn’t have a listserv, maybe you can start one with a question about what’s happening next door?

    • Also, you may learn a lot of you just hang out in front of your house. Within a week about ten different people had introduced themselves just while I was fumbling to figure out how to open my front door.

  • Sketch Factor: 5

  • There is a guy (who seems to bother no one) living under the front porch of a house in Bloomingdale for at least the past 4 years that I have been there. Never see anything going on in the house. I expect in a few years we will find out he murdered his parents in the house where their corpses still are while he lives outside under the porch.

    Seriously though…………. always wondered about it, clearly they know he is there every day and every night (I mean could be worse, he does not bother anybody and it stays clean, unless you happened to see him under there you would never know. But who ever owns or lives in the house lets it happen which is odd…… and seriously it has been for the past 4 years, all year round.

  • this happened next door to us, I called the police and the person and his stuff were removed

  • Maybe they use this area as a mud room/area?

  • Totally feasible. If your SO thinks you’re insane, you both need to brace yourselves for your new neighborhood.

  • Happened to me with my next door neighbor. Owner was lazy, mostly out of town and didn’t care. I called the cops a number of times because they were cooking and smoking while drunk. The problem is that without the owner saying that they don’t want them there, the cops claimed they couldn’t do anything. It is a huge pain. Talk to your neighbors and figure out what is going on because you can’t fix this if it’s not on your property.

  • First — congratulations on your house closing and welcome to Petworth. You’ll love the neighborhood even more once you move in. We do!

    Second, get to know the neighbors, and good luck with the homeless issue.

    • Good tips for newcomers:
      In retrospect, I wish I had made an effort to introduce myself to more of my neighbors. I’m kinda shy and I live on my own; I think it might’ve been easier if I’d had a roommate/spouse/partner to join me.

      • Welcome to Petworth! Definitely make an effort to say hi to everyone and get to know your neighbors. I’ve never lived in a place where random strangers say hi to each other on the street, but it happens in Petworth and it’s nice. But your first interaction probably should not be about the possible person under the porch. There are a lot of newcomers here, but also a lot of people who have lived here for all their lives, and their parents lived here for all their lives. There is a history and a culture, and as relative newcomers, we tried to be respectful of that and it has paid off in nice relationships with our neighbors.

      • What Frank Underwood, Textdoc and Anonymous 4:54 said. BTW this is Beth, who posted above. I finally registered.

  • Please talk to your neighbors first and find out what the situation might be.

    A new-ish neighbor of mine thought a guy who sleeps under the back porch of a house on our block was homeless, but I clued her in that he actually technically lives in the house. (The house is owned by his nephew and has been in their family for well over 50 years; he and the nephew don’t seem to get on very well, which I assume is the reason for his spending most of his time under the porch, but I haven’t asked because like it’s really any of my damn business? They’re causing no harm, so I let them be.)

  • Possible, but there are other explanations. When we moved into our house in Petworth, it had been empty for a while. People were selling weed on the front wall and hanging out in the back yard. A lot of it went away when the house became occupied without us having to do much. We also had a dog and that helped.

  • We had squatters in our neighborhood for two years. First under a porch a few doors down, and then in empty directly next door to me for a very long time (1.5 years at least) … the police said all we could do was call the police when we know they’re there – and then they’d get kicked out, but it was up to the owners (bank) to press charges or do something further. It was a nightmare because they were doing drugs and starting fires in the home to keep warm (this is a rowhouse). I felt bad for them, but a terrible situation.

  • Wow! What a nightmare. I would definitely talk to the neighbors. They know what’s up.

    I guess I had the opposite surprise. When I bought my house the sellers told us at closing that one of the houses we shared a wall with was Section 8 and basically bad neighbors. There was plenty of trash in the yard which seemed to confirm this. Well, it turned out that a developer bought it in a private sale right as we were buying our place. They flipped it and my new neighbor is great.

  • In my old condo building 14th & Columbia Rd. 20 years or so back, we had a homeless guy actually living in a utility closet on the 4th floor. He would have had to sleep curled up or with his feet on the wall. Pillows, blankets etc. – fortunately didn’t piss there. I had to respect the guy.

  • Petworth is quite a congenial place, but I think what you want to be doing right now is walking around a lot and engaging gently and politely with your new neighbors as you pass them on their porch or in their yards. I would guess they are aware of the situation and probably know the back story, but you don’t want to introduce yourself with pushy or demanding questions. If, however, the situation turns out to be a truly intolerable, call 311 and ask what to do. Or call the police.

  • If it becomes relevant to your situation, the Shelter Hotline is 202-399-7093. They can provide more information if you want to get this person connected to services.

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