“How has it been allowed to go on for so long?”


“Dear PoPville,

I walk down the 1400 block of R Street NW a few times a day. For the last 6-8 months I’ve noticed an older, dark conversion van parked just outside the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. It is always in the exact same spot. I’ve suspected that people are actually living in the van because the windows are always covered and there are often cigarette butts, empty beer cans, charcoal ash, and garbage strewn about the sidewalk localized to the van.

On Sunday I walked by with my dog and saw three men sitting with the doors open in folding camping chairs. They had a small campfire grill on the sidewalk (which explains the ash) and were playing loud music and drinking. They clearly made it a semi-permanent home because they’d also set up a green open-air canopy tent and attached it to their van.

It raises a few questions in my mind, including: has anyone else noticed this? How has it been allowed to go on for so long? Are they affiliated with “Hope and a Home” just down the street? Any thoughts are appreciated.”

49 Comment

  • Are they violating any parking restrictions on that block?

    • That’s what I was wondering.
      I’m not clear that living out of a vehicle is in itself illegal, although littering and public drinking obviously are, and the loud music might be too depending on time of day and MPD interpretation.

      • LOL. Has the MPD every enforced loud music ordinances from vehicles in this city? If so, can you point me to which officers so I can call them the 8000x time a day someone is sitting in traffic in front of my house with their music blasting.

        • Yeah, from what I heard MPD rarely does anything about noise complaints, but I thought I should mention it as a possibility.

          • I was thinking more along the lines about noise complaints in general.
            Usually vehicles with loud music are in moving traffic, but this one is stationary.

        • justinbc

          I’ve personally had MPD respond to about half a dozen late night noise complaints that I’ve filed, mostly from house parties, but sometimes from out of town “parked car parties” as well.

          • That’s encouraging to know. Thanks!
            I think the cases in which PoPvillagers responded that MPD had been less than helpful was when there was super-loud music being played outdoors during the _day_.

          • MPD will respond to noise complaints, but generally no tickets will be issued. They’ll try to get people to move along/keep the noise down, and it generally works.

        • I wish they were better about also writing tickets for loud music from moving cars. I understand that it is typically a few seconds of inconvenience but when traffic stalls or when it is seemingly a car every 5-10 minutes passing by with blaring music, it gets tiresome.

          • Ahh. I take it you live on a street with a fair amount of traffic? I can see how if you were hearing other people’s loud music from different cars multiple times an hour, it would get really annoying really quickly. 🙁

  • I live around here too; they’ve been parked here for as long as I can remember, and I’ve lived in the neighborhood for three years. I have never *not* seen the van parked here. Not sure they are violating any laws though, and it is pretty much harmless.

    • I wouldn’t call public drinking harmless and there are definitely laws against littering and probably something in the code about grilling and loitering on a sidewalk.

      • no loitering laws in dc

      • How is public drinking harmful?

      • drinking on a sidewalk next to a restaurant = good

        drinking on a sidewalk next to a van = bad

        GOT IT!

        • Okay I’ll concede that if someone guarantees me that having a bunch of people living in a van and drinking on the sidewalk outside of my house won’t affect my property value or result in me having to pick up even more trash off of my sidewalk/yard than I already do then by all means they are welcome to set up camp!

  • why isn’t it down by the river?

  • They parked for at least a year on Corcoran in front of my house. I also suspected people lived there, but never once noticed a problem or trash anything really. Leave the people alone — they are certainly not hurting you just trying to live.

  • Considering every day there are thousands of people literally living outside on the streets, I’m not sure why it is so offputting that people might be living in a van?

    • Because they’re snobbish prigs and can’t imagine what it’s life to truly live from week to week/month to month.

  • You guys are a buncha playa hata’s. These dudes are living the dream! Let them camp/tailgate/live in peace!

  • DC1

    hmm.. that van is parked at a zone 2 parking ONLY zone, so I’m guessing the RPP is current and valid (this also means the vehicle is registered with a valid zone 2 address). Also that side of the street has a Tuesday street cleaning restriction, so I don’t really think it has been sitting there for 6-8 months straight. A quick check on the tag number with DPW and it shows it has no outstanding tickets, so unless you call MPD on them to catch them doing something illegal, like littering, there is not much to go on here.

  • I was parked 2 cars away from them on Memorial Day, and they did have a big blue tent extending from the van, over the sidewalk and almost onto the steps of the Church. A couple of cops showed up and made them move the tent so that it’s not in the way of pedestrians using the sidewalk. One of the cops actually helped them move the tent away and onto the steps of the Church. Other than that, the presumable van occupants continued on with their grilling and blasting Prince through the van’s speakers. I was glad I didn’t live on that block – would be annoyed if I had to constantly dodge their tent, hot grill or deafening sound every time I stepped out of my house.

  • We’re living in a society!

  • justinbc

    They’ve clearly been getting geared up for that Redskins SuperBowl appearance.

  • wmm

    I live in the building directly across from this van. He has a ‘dual residence’ in our building and the van. It’s registered Zone 2, and they move it every Monday and Tuesday when warranted from the street sweeping restrictions. Really nice guy. Always offers hot dogs to me and my girlfriend when we see him grilling.

    • How have you allowed this to go on for so long! Free hot dogs! The humanity!

    • I had a neighbor on P Street who did the same thing, with a similar conversion van. He would mostly hang out in the driver’s seat with the van closed up, though. I guess it offers personal space away from the family? Anyway, it’s a thing.

  • I live one block past the church and regularly see him grilling or hanging with friends listening to music. He’s been there for years and seems harmless. I always assumed he had some association with the church as he’s always parked in front of their lot. And God bless day drinking…

  • I wonder if they are affiliated with the guys who used to hang out with the Vietnam vet behind his house on Calvert Street, in the alley behind Biltmore Street. His friends would show up in the morning and start drinking on his back steps even when he wasn’t home. I complained to one of the long-time condo residents, but he said they actually keep an eye on the alley and kept away the creepers who used to jump our back wall to break into the units.

  • It is exactly like this commercial from the 80’s. Is that freedom rock? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eGWW8KOQio

  • It’s just the guys from this ad, no? Is that freedom rock, man? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eGWW8KOQio

  • Go see the movie “The Lady in the Van” to see what happens in London when someone living in a vehicle parks it on your street and then in your driveway.

  • Steal their tags – problem solved!

  • I live on the street and call the van the “snake van” because the gentleman who owns it has a boa constrictor as a pet which he displays for the neighborhood on occasion.

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