“this increase in human feces has lead to an increase in the rat population in our area”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Kelly Bell

“Dear PoPville,

My fiance and I live in an apartment that is accessed only by walking down a public alley. We’ve recently seen a major uptick in the homeless in our area (8th st. in Shaw) using the alley as their personal toilet whenever they need to go #2. We’ve been here for 2 years and the past 2-3 months we’ve noticed about 3 to 4 new instances of this occurring per week. And these aren’t discrete (i.e. hiding behind a garbage can, parked car, etc.), these are at the entry of the alley, in full sight of anyone walking by on the sidewalk, with “deposits” going all over the walls of the houses and restaurants that back-up to this alley.

We’ve called 311 to request alley cleanings, which can take up 30 days for those requests to be processed. I’ve notified the police, even pointing out the homeless woman I had previously caught in the act. Their reply was that nothing could be done unless they (the police) caught the person during the act. We’ve also called the Dept. of Health, given the amount of restaurants (i.e. 1905, etc.) that back up to our alley, noting that this increase in human feces has lead to an increase in the rat population in our area. They said they would “investigate the matter.”

Any other organizations, or other options we can consider, to try and stop this activity?”

41 Comment

  • Ugh, that sounds nasty! Try also contacting your ANC rep and (if this is Ward 1 — not sure where the southern/eastern boundaries are) Ben Case, who’s the Ward 1 liaison to the mayor’s office.

    • If it’s a bit further south in Alex Padro’s ANC area, he’d be the person to contact. He’s very proactive and works hard to make his part of Shaw a nice place to live.

  • that’s a tough problem to have, man – good luck to you…

  • We were having the same problem in our alley. A neighbor of mine went as far as installing security cameras to catch the people doing it. Unfortunately, the way to deal with this issue is through a multi-agency approach. Getting people off of the streets and working is where the focus really needs to be.

    • Yes, the problem is poverty and homelessness. In comparison the issues of feces and rats are pretty small. Thank you for bringing some perspective to this. The poster seems to care little about the homeless people and only about him/herself, hence wanting to get rid of rats and shit (and probably the homeless people too) but I don’t see any sign that they care about the people who have no other options for going to the bathroom.

      • I’m sort of spitballing here, but wonder if it would make sense to reach out to Bread for the City for advice. I imagine they would be able to help out with resources as well as bathrooms.

      • I get your point about the problems of poverty and homelessness. But in fairness to OP, I don’t think he/she is insensitive for not wanting someone to take a dump on the side of their home or behind their home. Starbucks, Giant, the library, shelters etc are options. It’s a public health issue–there are kids in the neighborhood as well. People should not be allowed to use alleys as public toilets because they are poor, homeless etc.

      • Homelessness is a problem. Pooping in public is also a problem.

  • Not that I would want one in my alley, but how about adding a portable toilet somewhere in the area?

    • +1 I came here to write the same thing.
      If everyone on the alley chipped in, it shouldn’t be too bad.

    • You’d have to maintain it, pay to have it emptied and stock it with paper and hand sanitizer. Plus, you make your alley the destination for everyone in the area who needs to take a dump and you can end up with hookers turning tricks in them.

  • DC cops love pulling the “if a cop didn’t see the crime, they can do nothing” card. I think it was around 9th and U with some MPD last year and a bike thief where a PoPvillager followed someone stealing bikes and notified the police, who pulled the same old abject laziness card.

    • For good reason. Could you imagine? “Arrest that woman! I saw her taking a dump!”

      • Totally! It’d be absolutely horrible to have to arrest people based on witnesses reporting crimes!
        “Well now, son, I know there’s a dead body in your backyard, riddled with bullets, and you saw the guy who shot the victim while he was in the act of shooting, but I didn’t. So, I can’t do anything about it.”

        • Are you serious?

          Well, sure try that. “Arrest that woman! She killed someone!”

          • I’m serious that when a police officer claims that they cannot arrest someone despite having evidence (the feces) and a witness, they are being lazy. The standard to arrest someone is probable cause. That standard is pretty low and easily met here. A police officer does not have to witness a crime for an arrest to happen. Are you clear on that last point? If you think the poopertrator (trademark pending) should not be arrested, that is a subjective argument and unrelated to the complaint I have about MPD, which is using the made up standard of their lack of witnessing a specific crime as a way to avoid doing their jobs.

        • Like, seriously, do you genuinely think that murders don’t get prosecuted in DC? I’m going to assume that you don’t think that and wonder why you don’t get that the issue is a bit more complex than “if a cop didn’t see the crime, they can do nothing”.

          IOW, there has to be an actual investigation before someone is detained or questioned, and no, no one’s investigating the mystery of the public turd.

          • I guess you missed the sardonic aspect of my second comment.

            If the police officer truly believed that they could not arrest someone (let alone prosecute, which is something different and not done by the police but by attorneys) because the police officer did not personally witness the commission of the crime, then we would have a serious problem. However, given that some police officers in DC have claimed that this is the case (e.g., bicycle thief) when it is not the legal standard necessary to effect an arrest, I think we have an issue of laziness.

    • justinbc

      It’s not a “card”, it’s a “law”.

      • What exactly is that law? Are you saying that a police officer cannot arrest someone because the police officer did not witness the crime?

    • An officer can only make an arrest without a warrant for a felony, a crime he/she witnesses, or certain crimes called “probable cause misdemeanors.” (DC Code § 23-581) Urinating or defecating in public is not a probable cause misdemeanor so the officer can only make an arrest if he or she witnesses the offense, or gets an arrest warrant. The prosecutors and the courts will never issue a warrant for someone pooping in the alley.

  • install a video camera?

    • Seriously? Is your goal to criminilize poverty and surveil people who have no home and no place to go to the bathroom? Yes, it is a problem and I understand you wanting to address it but you’ll get no sympathy from me if you show no sympathy toward the people in poverty who use the alley.

      • In its great fairness, The Law prohibits the rich and poor alike from pooping in alleys.

      • Oh please. There are options other than using an alley. This isn’t a poverty issue – it’s an issue of people loitering on the streets all day, drinking and doing drugs, and shitting in an alley. I hope they move to your front porch so you can tell them how sympathetic you are about the pile of sh!t on your stoop.

        • Blithe

          Please list some of the options: you would be doing a good deed for your neighbors — including the OP. KP listed some of the possibilities: There are shelters — which are often closed during the day. There are places like Starbucks, other restaurants and stores — which often require that you ask for a key, usually for the purpose of preventing people who are not customers from using their facilities. There are public places like the library, Metro stations, museums, and some parks — although they have limited hours, and I have read multiple posts in this very blog complaining about people who appear to be homeless taking advantage of such resources to the dismay of patrons who, themselves are far from homeless.
          . TLDR : Please kindly list some of the free options that would be available to someone homeless during a 24 hour period. You’d be doing your neighbors as well as those in search of a loo a valuable public service.

          • clevelanddave

            How about pooping into a bag or container and then putting that in another bag or container then putting it in a garbage can? Jeez, not that hard.

          • The thing is, there are thousands of homeless people in the city that manage to find places to poop. It is a rare thing to come across a human turd in public. The homeless people that are doing this are most likely not mentally sound or just don’t care at all about the people around them.

          • @clevelanddave Because the homeless have such easy access to gladware….??

  • Those who want to better understand this issue (and its history) of “cleaning” public spaces of the disabled, poor, and racial minorities should read Susan Schweik’s amazing book, “The Ugly Laws.”

  • ledroittiger

    That sucks. Most of the homeless heroin addicts living in Duke Ellington Plaza just a couple blocks away piss in the alley too, but luckily (or unluckily?) Zenebech Injera allows them to crap in their bathrooms and wash up there.

  • Id install motion sensored flood lights in the alley. Relatively low cost, no maintenance, and should make it a bit less comfortable for folks to use as a bathroom when a bright light is shining on them.

    • +1. I was going to ask what the alley’s lighting situation was like — making it better lit might not stop the pooping, but perhaps it would decrease it.

  • Maybe if jeffb wants to allow the homeless to poop in the alley he should clean up after them that way everyone wins

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