“I guess this is mostly a psa to start by calmly and respectfully asking questions before you make up your mind”

psa
Photo by PoPville flickr user Chris Williams

“Dear PoPville,

On Monday around 9 a.m., while walking up the block to my office, I watched a nearby business open their door and swish a bucketful of water onto the sidewalk. No big deal…except that a few feet down the slight grade on the sidewalk were two homeless people who are always there. The water ran down the sidewalk to them, soaking their blankets and belongings as they sat there.

For a moment I was confused. The sidewalks were wet from the rain, so why the bucketful of water? Did I really just witness a business intentionally harassing or trying to shoo away homeless people?

When I stopped a few steps past the scene to look back, a man passing e remarked how he’d seen the business sweeping the sidewalk but that they should have the decency not to do that with the water. I said I’d contact the business but I had a nagging feeling I should’ve done something in the moment.

I went to the business a few hours later to speak with the owners, but they were in meetings, so I emailed. The owner wrote back to tell me that when the store is closed, this group of 2-3 will move into the alcoves at the store’s entrance, and when employees come to open it up, they will find that they have defecated there. The smell, he mentioned, has been a problem even inside of the business. Employees who open up the morning have to clean up after them and wash down the entrance/sidewalk, which is what I’d seen. They’d told the two homeless people sitting there that they were going to wash down the entrance and the sidewalk before they did it.

I don’t really have a solution I can come up with, because the business owner also said that homeless services had asked the people to come to a shelter, but they refused to leave their spot. It’s a very unfortunate situation for both the business and the homeless people.

I’m sensitive to social justice issues, but realized through this that my own tendency to jump to conclusions can get in the way. I ended up feeling grateful I didn’t react in the moment but waited to organize my thoughts. So I guess this is mostly a public service announcement to start by calmly and respectfully asking questions before you make up your mind. I still wish there was something I could do to help this situation, but the best I can think of is to write to you and share it. Thanks.”

23 Comment

  • Was this on E St. between 9th and 10th?

    • That was my thought, too!

      • Yep. Was thinking about the same crew that camps out on E between the McD’s , &Pizza and Hard Rock usually. They are a foul bunch, young in age and more aggressive than your average homeless group. I saw them harassing a bunch of tourist school kids . I stood by and did nothing; I felt bad, but the bus driver got off the kids’ bus and shooed them away.

        • I’m a female and work right above the McDonald’s, while I’d agree the smell is unattractive, I will say I have never once felt that the homeless individuals were ever aggresive. Anecdotal, but just thought it was weird since I pass them everyday and have never experienced the aggression mentioned.

      • This was my exact thought as well!

    • I was thinking west side of Connecticut, where the kids store used to be. I have often thought that if I were a business owner right there, I would be very, very conflicted.

  • I should change the specifics and share the sentiments w/ the painful people in my office

  • Just a note to say bravo for checking the situation out before jumping to conclusions one way or the other. Probably won’t make for as good of fireworks in the popville comments, but you’re a good person for approaching this thoughtfully rather than burning down the barn and asking questions later.

  • “social justice” doesn’t include being able to take a dump on the sidewalk. If these people are harassing the business owners, I’m surprised things haven’t escalated more.

    • Seriously. Why are we not more empathetic with business owners and employees trying to make a living?

      • lucky for us, there isn’t a finite amount of empathy

      • I don’t think anyone here isn’t empathetic to the business owners and employees. The whole point of the post is that she didn’t rush to judgement to condemn them for their actions.

      • What’s worse, operating a business with feces at the entrance or being homeless?

  • Original poster here. Yep, it was on E between 9th and 10th.

  • was the water to clean the excrement or to intentionally wet the homeless people? Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • justinbc

    My immediate thought was “it’s probably because people piss there.” Some things you unfortunately get used to seeing all too often while living in this city.

  • Sometimes I think the sentiment that “everyone is stupid/evil/jerks but me” is all that keeps half the population from blowing their brains out any given day it seems to fill the void left in their souls by I dunno what. I think we all have that gut reaction at times but some people seem to have a real problem walking it back even after it has been made clear that there was a misunderstanding (as it usually is). Kudos to the OP for not just assuming the worst out of context and flying off the handle.

  • Urinating or defecationg in public is illegal in DC. While there are sometimes challenging situations involving children and adults could have an “emergency”, this sounds like a regular situation that the police should be involved in correcting. These individuals are not being helped at all by allowing this situation to continue.

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