“This was never a great street, I’ve been working near here for 12 years. But in the last six months it has gotten insane.”

MLK_Library
9th and G St, NW

“Dear PoPville,

Has anyone written in about MLK Library / G Street lately?

This was never a great street, I’ve been working near here for 12 years. But in the last six months it has gotten insane.

I’ve seen two guys being attended to by Fire/EMS for ODing in the last month. Both times drug deal were still going down within 10 feet of the medics. This is all in the middle of the day during lunch.

I don’t know if it’s synthetic drugs or something else. But addicts down there have gone from mellowed out and sitting in the shade, to full on aggressive/crazy, running around screaming.

The DEA DC field office is 2 blocks south of here, yet it’s a virtual open air drug market during work hours.”

88 Comment

  • You’re not imagining things. More and more lately, I’ve become uneasy walking around there by myself.

  • It’s not just you, it’s awful. I now go several blocks out of my way to avoid walking down that block. I never felt unsafe there in daylight, but just so uncomfortable (and the smell is horrendous).

  • Not enough gentrification !!!

    what ? too soon ?

  • I worked in the area from ten years ago until about five years ago and was by all the time getting books on my lunch hour or after work. Just a few weeks ago I was by there during the day for the first time since I worked down there. Walking the two blocks over from City Center, I was completely unprepared for the shock.

  • It seems to be about the same to me. I go past there a few times a weak. They dont really bother me but I can understand folks not wanting to see individuals stumbling around high

    • There’s a difference between stumbling around and being aggressive.

      • It is. I don’t usually get the aggressive situation personally outside of asking for change etc. Sorry for those that do.

    • It’s not about “not wanting to see people stumbling around high”. The issue is that when people are high (not on just pot, but the heavy duty crap people are obviously taking), it makes them unpredictable and dangerous. Not to mention that crimes like robberies and snatchings go hand in hand with the drug use as these guys need to fund their habits. And, it’s simply a fact that some of them art armed. I saw the police arrest a guy on my block the other day (I don’t know specifically what for) but when they searched his backpack, they found a large handgun. Even though one assumes some people are carrying weapons, it freaked me out to see it first hand, right there at my front door.

  • I’ve noticed that as well. I don’t work in the neighborhood, but I am there during the day a couple of times a month for meetings and it’s gotten bad enough that I have changed my route to avoid it. There’s much more aggressive behavior than I can remember seeing in a very long time.

  • Needed to get the baby a passport and wanted to use the office in the library. I insisted we go real early on a Saturday in hopes to avoid the mayhem i’ve seen at other times. And the smell is otherworldly.

  • I’ve worked nearby for 3 years and pick up books at MLK fairly regularly and haven’t noticed much of a change myself.

  • I have worked at the office building next door to the MLK library for the past 4 years. There are female employees at my company who refuse to walk along the sidewalk next to the MLK library alone, during lunch time in broad daylight. The smell of urine and weed is so strong the entire block of the library, and especially in the alley way behind the library. I have noticed that the MLK Library has someone hose down the sidewalks every morning to wash out the dried up urine and trash that accumulates during the day. There have been numerous attempts of theft, namely reaching for someone’s phone. I am also approached by at least 3 people every morning on my walk past the library by people asking for money. It is really a sad situation for everyone there and I wish there can be something done to help.

  • It’s not just MLK – it’s city-wide. And the problem is our super-liberal local laws. Trying to be “kind” to homeless people and addicts, we have taken away the power of EMTs to involuntarily take someone in who has obviously overdosed on drugs or alcohol. If you are capable of waking the person up, you have to do so and ask if they WANT medical help. If they say the word “no”, you have to leave them there, to pass out again and maybe even die. Similarly, the police can’t arrest people for loitering, which means they can’t help with people passed out either.
    .
    While it comes off, on its face, as being about “human rights” or some such nonsense to have liberal laws like these, the reality is it kills these people, and it hurts the quality of life for everyone else. These are people are in obvious need of medical, social, and often also legal intervention in their lives, and they are ONLY interacting with EMTs or police or anyone else when they are in the LEAST functional state to be able to recognize and act upon that fact.
    .
    Ever had a fight with a drunk friend at a bar telling them they had enough to drink? The same friend, sober, would completely agree with you. Once they’re toasted, though, you will only get a “no”. Same is true here – they may actually be willing to accept longer-term help if we had the ability to take them in for medical observation (and threaten arrest as the alternative if they did not want to go) when we find them in these states and then ask them, once they’ve sobered up, if this is really the life they want to lead. They may even ASK for help, if they sober up in the right environment. But we made it illegal to take them somewhere safe to sober up if they can say no in a drugged or drunken stupor, and as a result, more and more of these folks literally die at our feet on the sidewalk.
    .
    It is absolutely beyond me why the citizens of this city can’t pressure the Council to restore the involuntary medical observation period for those who are a danger to themselves. But, then again, I’ve stopped trying to understand the politics of this town a while ago.

    • Glad you got that off your chest, Shaw. I was just about to ask you, “what are you prepared to do about this problem;” until I read your last sentence.

      So I’ll ask all who have posted: “What are you going to do about this?” Is musing online all you are prepared to invest? Are you not willing to spend the time and make the effort to constructively address a problem and leave a positive impact on the city in which you live? Maybe it’s not your neighborhood so its not your problem, right?

      We can choose to be social in real life, not just on media.

      • I’ve certainly talked to my elected officials, and to candidates running for office, about changing the laws to protect the most vulnerable around us. Nobody seems interested unless it’s building more shelters. The fact that some people could have help before they get to that point that may avoid the need for a shelter for them in the long term altogether seems to fall on deaf ears.

      • Anon, you must be new here. Because a lot of us who have been here for 10+ years wore ourselves out in the first five. Between fighting with DCRA over those early home improvements to trying to get our alleys repaired to disputing nonsensical parking tickets to doing our absolute damnedest to get a handle on the violence… We’re worn out. If all we have left in us is some weary outrage that gets dumped here, don’t assume that it’s because we were never prepared to do anything about it.
        If you haven’t seen the myriad posts about people trying to DO something about problems and listing the countless hurdles or straight-up brick walls that DC has thrown in their way, well… again, you must be new here.

        • I merely asked a question @wdc. You respond with an assumption. For the record, I’m a 16 year veteran of DC, the last six of which have been in this neighborhood. And I’m very well versed on dealing with the DCRA, DC government in general, and the corrupt politics. But none of this is foreign to DC or any major city with complex social problems.

          Getting what you want is rarely easy. But certainly, editorializing, posing rhetorical questions, and snarkingly stating the obvious on blogs won’t amount to much useful.

    • You sound like a fool.

  • I’ve seen a lot of stuff going on here. Most recently a large group of juveniles harassing pedestrians and causing damage to the nearby bikeshare rack.

    • The bike rack is a major gathering point for groups of juveniles. I often have to get or return my bike to another station a few blocks away in either direction just to be safe.

  • There was less hanging out when the building next door was under construction. The church supported a lot of homeless outreach that was interrupted when they moved elsewhere during construction. I would imagine that the parishioners live. In NW or the suburbs and would not think of having a lot of homeless outreach in their own neighborhoods. On the whole, though, it’s not much different than it was 10 years ago. Why the homeless service orbs can’t use a different hub is beyond me.

    • ah

      DC is promoting libraries as a daytime place for homeless, who can’t stay in the shelters all day.

      http://wamu.org/programs/metro_connection/15/02/20/dc_public_library_expands_outreach_to_homeless_patrons

      • You’re misreading the article you linked to. No one is actively encouraging the homeless to come to libraries; DCPL is acknowledging that the homeless do come to libraries & have been doing so for a long time. What’s new is that library staff are being trained in how to interact with the homeless, including offering referrals to sources of shelter, food and job/life training.

      • Why can’t the homeless stay in a shelter all day? It seems like giving the homeless a place to be where they won’t be harassing the populace is part of what homeless shelters should be doing.

          • Good lord? Shawz isn’t suggesting putting people on busses and shipping them to Newark.

            It’s a problem when people are unable to enjoy city resources because a section of the population, for mental health reasons or otherwise, create an unsafe and unsanitary environment. Why should those people that want to use resources like libraries as intended be punished?

        • I live and work nearby and am wary of the area. But it’s one among many areas in DC where I’m wary. As for why the homeless can’t stay in the shelters all day, I believe, among other reasons, the shelters clear out for a few hours per day for cleaning? But I’d also guess, like many people, the homeless would rather be out and about than stay inside at all hours.

        • “It seems like giving the homeless a place to be where they wonโ€™t be harassing the populace is part of what homeless shelters should be doing.”

          So…like a prison?

          • No not like a prison because folks wouldn’t be forced to stay in the shelter all day. More like a real house, where folks have the option of staying all day if they want to. Most shelters force residents to leave during a set number of daytime hours so they cannot stay there even if they wish to.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Or just giving them a safe place to spend the day.

          • I agree with you Haile (and also Toonces and Cam) — but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like some homeless individuals would rather go elsewhere. For example, take the group outside the Reeves Center. Despite the barriers being put up to keep the homeless from sleeping under the eves, despite reports of assistance being offered, they are still there, now just on the ground. It’s impossible and immoral to refuse an individual the right to chose where they spend their time, whether we like it or not.

  • Imagine this area will be fenced off when the library closes next year through 2020 for a big renovation.

  • It does make me sad when people tell me that they’re too scared to visit the MLK branch (or even the entire DC library system). But unfortunately I think this is pretty typical for the area around the main branch of an urban library. I didn’t think it had changed that much in the past year or so, but I’m not there often enough to know for sure.

  • it got worse when k2 hit the shelters.

  • I haven’t necessarily noticed an uptick in the general awfulness of that block. I have noticed more and more hanging out across from the Portrait Gallery on the steps of SAAM. Food and garbage everywhere.

    I just avoid it or walk by and recognize it is what it is and there isn’t much we can do. Obviously people should alert police if someone is acting in a dangerous (to others or themselves) manner. But it’s the summer and the shelters close during the day and it’s a major city. There is not much to be done if we aren’t able to address the mental issues and substance addictions (and of course the homelessness that likely led to the other problems).

    I’d say pass a loitering law, but with how the police in DC seem to either ignore or are oblivious to the blatant open illegal drug use on the streets (and not just by the homeless), I doubt they’d bother to enforce it. This morning I saw four teenage girls walking by the convention center smoking a joint at about 9am. I think people misunderstand that it is still illegal to openly smoke weed in public.

    • This I do agree with. More folks are hanging out on the steps and lawn of the portrait gallery near the metro entrance. That entire area smells of urine at times.

      As far as smoking weed in public, once it was reduced to a ticket people basically take that as being ok to do in public and will eat the fine if they are ever cited. It’s not like they plan on paying it

      • We still have to find somebody who demonstrates aggressive behavior while stoned (high on weed). This has nothing to do with cannabis but a lot with the scooby snax crap.

        • Oh, I don’t think people who smoke weed are dangerous. I just think it’s illegal so people shouldn’t freely do it downtown on public streets. I also find the smell repulsive, but I otherwise could care less what people do in their own spaces.

          • I hear you but i’d rather see people smoking weed than PCP or whatever chemicals you can find in scooby stuff.
            To each his own, the smell isnt worse than the exhaust of a truck, i actually prefer the former

  • I live on this block and believe me, none of you are imagining any of the things being described. I see it every day. Each time I walk out my front door, I look both ways and across the street to pick the safest route off my block … a route devoid of a group of men huddled together exchanging money for drugs, or someone stumbling along yelling at nobody in particular.

  • A library should be a safe and welcoming area, but……..::shrug:: whatever.

    when was it decided that this library would be a ‘go to’ place for the homeless?? It’s this place, the portrait gallery, and in front of the Mcdonalds where they all seem to congregate.

    ugh.

  • I live in Mather Studios at 916 G Street. The homeless people can be obnoxious but stop pretending that its Fallujah. We have a list serv in our building and its just a bunch of old white people being scared for no reason. The smell of urine can be gross (stop pretending it’s everywhere. its usually by the bus stop along the library), but I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked. I’ve also never had anyone be rude to me or make me feel threatened. I do think they could clean it up a bit (trash everywhere is not a great look) but if you really fear for your life down there I’d suggest moving to Bethesda.

    • Just because it’s not Fallujah, doesn’t mean it’s OK! I assume most people would prefer to walk out of their front door and NOT see drug deals, unconscious/semi conscious drug users, smell urine, or have to cross the street to avoid a crazy person who’s yelling and unpredictable.

      • It’s downtown DC. I guess I feel like it’s a sacrifice you make living in such a central location. NYC smells like trash everywhere, but I don’t complain about it because it comes with the territory. I’m not saying there aren’t improvements to be made, because there are. But by and large the homeless people outside of our building have been very nice to me. I guess I just don’t care if kids are selling weed – it’s legal and doesn’t affect me. The second that someone gets assaulted, I’ll change my tune. But for now, the only guy who really bothers me is on the west side of the portrait gallery and at least he’s not on our block. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Yes, it’s a downtown area. And cities are cities. I’m not saying there should be a white picket fence around the building or the smell of apple pie wafting from our windows. The issue is that these problems are so centralized on this particular block. Things that could be improved.
          BTW, selling weed is NOT legal. And, if you think that’s all they are selling, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to tell you about ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hi neighbor, I also live in the building and wanted to note that our listserv has only existed for about a month and in that time, it has had about three posts, none of which dealt with crime. So I’m a little confused about your conclusion that it’s all “a bunch of old white people being scared for no reason.” And on the topic of the post, although it sucks to see people stoned out of their minds, I love this neighborhood and don’t feel more unsafe than other parts of the city. In fact I feel more comfortable here than in neighborhoods like Columbia Heights.

      • Didn’t we have a the police come to our lobby to discuss the horrors of G street? I also remember carol sending out a number of emails due to complaints. The reason I even found this article was due to the email sent out this morning. I guess I just don’t understand why people care if people are stoned. If you aren’t being aggressive then it shouldn’t be an issue. If you are that offended by people getting high in a manner that doesn’t affect you at all then move to a red state and enjoy the awesome freedoms they provide.

  • I don’t know why you said during work hours the same happens after work as well

  • I live on the block. YEs, it has been getting worse — and the Catholic Church, Library and MPD have done what they can to alleviate the issues. There have been some big crackdowns on synthetic marijuana use (a major factor), and more vigilant patrolling of the block. With the upcoming closure of the library, I bet that the street will be empty for some time, as the daily busses from the homeless shelters will stop (in theory).

  • I haven’t read other comments yet but I don’t think it’s just this block. I’ve seen at least 2 other instances of people face down on the concrete with medics attending to them — obviously overdoses — near U Street in the past month or two, as well. I think this is a problem in many areas of the city that we are just not noticing, since we can’t be everywhere at once.

  • It’s not just this block, the intersection of H & 7th (especially the corner with the metro stop and that stretch of H) has quietly become one of the worst in the city over the past couple of years. Tourists see it and think the whole city is like that.

  • This is what happens when the city uses its central library as a unofficial day shelter. Every morning line clockwork, 4 shuttles from shelters pull up and drop 30-40 homeless people off at the front door.

    They spend all day urinating on the side of the building and each other ( yes, saw two guys 3 weeks ago at 11 in the morning with their junk out trying to pee on each other), selling and buying drugs, aggressively begging for money et. Then that afternoon at about 5:30, the shuttles show up to take them back.

    You couldn’t pay me to live in the Mathers place across the street. Between the library and the two churches on that block, it is hobo heaven about 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. No thanks.

    • Public urination in places like this befuddles me. The library has restrooms, right? And they’re not going to stop you from coming in unless you are acting really, really poorly (threatening people or the like is where they draw the line, I’d imagine). So why not go inside to pee?

      • I’ve always wondered this too. It’s not like you have to be a member or pay anything, and a lot of the time the people that did pee outside went inside anyway. Makes no sense.

  • The area around MLK has been gross since I moved here in 1991. I used the library as an intern and the urine smell extended INSIDE because the stink clings to some of the homeless people who would come in and nap and read the paper. I just put a book on hold but was glad it was available at a different branch. I kind of feel the same way about the intersections at Florida and North Capitol, 14th and Oak, Kennedy and Georgia NW…Not sure why the police tolerate open air drug dealing. Hey MPD what’s the 50-411?

  • its definitely worse in the last few years. the city put up all the tables and chairs outside the entrance creating a cafe/hangout almost for homeless folks. Shelters kick folks out becuase theoretically they are supposed to be out looking for a job during the day. Its a really dumb policy and most shelters needs a better approach. So homeless folks have nowhere else to go and library makes it easy. An old roommate of mine saw human shit in the stairwells there years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens when MLK shuts down for at least 3 years starting next year. There is also a church close by that provides a lot of services for the homeless and folks are always lined up on that block too.

    • Yeah, I don’t understand either why shelters kick residents out during the day. Doesn’t seem fair.

  • I agree 100% with “Redacted.” It’s not like it’s Bagdhad or Kabul! I have noticed after living on the block for almost two years that more people are always out during the summer. School’s out, kids don’t have anything to do, and the homeless don’t want to be cooped up in a shelter all day. What exactly are you expecting in an urban envrionment???? I always try to keep a low profile and I’m a female. Fortunately, I haven’t been assaulted or even yelled at. What blows my mind is people move to the city from surburbia but still expect things to be like surburbia! What’s going on now is very mild compared to what DC was like 15-20 years ago. I think it will take a long time for things to change and we all know that’s the big “G” word although I think that has already happened in most areas of NW. Or if it’s too much move somewhere else or join the city council or something.

    • west_egg

      “people move to the city from surburbia but still expect things to be like surburbia”
      .
      Having a low tolerance for public urination, open-air drug dealing, harassment and robbery =/= “expecting suburbia.” But sure, it’s not as bad as motherf**king Baghdad so everyone should just STFU.

  • Unfortunate that this has happened to a building of such architectural significance.

    • You mean one that’s effectively rotting from the inside that they have to rehab the entire building?

      • It’s a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and thus architecturally significant — deteriorating or not.
        .
        When I’ve been inside, it certainly hasn’t appeared to be “effectively rotting from the inside.”

        • We’ve done this “architecturally significant” versus “just plain ugly” for years now. I’m in the just ugly camp. And I’m reasonably artsy, historic and fond of good architecture. A famous “Name” doesn’t make the building any better. The homeless problem is a bigger and separate issue. Though it doesn’t help that homeless shelters actually bus people and drop them off there.

  • This block is a high crime area for possession and distribution of synthetic cannibinoids, aka K2. Majority of the users are homeless who frequent that area because there’s not only the library that they can chill at, but a van does food drop offs over there.
    The dealers go up and down the block soliciting sales of K2. A lot of times the homeless are used as middlemen and sell the K2, in order to support their own habit of smoking it. Or the homeless would sell loose cigs in order to buy K2.
    MPD is discouraged from arresting people for possession of K2. Rather, there NSID guys for a time were focused on getting the dealers. Metro Transit Police for awhile were locking people up left and right in the area of the bus stop at 9thand G and up by the Metro Center entrance up the street for possession and distribution of K2. Hopefully you noticed that the entrance of Metro Center has been a lot clearer of people loitering and using K2 than it used to be due to the arrests and focus of MTPD.
    Another thing to consider is that even though we are arresting these people, the Us Attorneys office no papers 99% of possession charges for K2. The guys arrested for distribution or pwid K2 are 9 times outta 10 released and plea down and get probation. And the cycle for these guys continue and based on what I see, they just continue to do what they got locked up for. Alot of the homeless are addicted to this K2. The people I’ve come across that got locked up for dealing K2 are practically homeless themselves. It’s an easy drug to get that can be ordered online and shipped. And the guys who are buying in bulk are making drop offs for these young homeless people to sell to the other homeless people. I can go on and on about this topic. If I lived here or worked at a office on this block, I would hate all the k2 and drug use also. But in all honesty, if we hit that block hard again, the drug use would just get pushed to another block. When we hit that entrance of metro center every day, all they would do is just move down the block and smoke and sell it over there. Real key is to stop the addiction and stop the import of k2 into DC Md and Va. And have the us attorneys prosecute harder and create legislation to bring down the companies making K2 that recreate the formulas of their product to bypass the law.

    • Thank you ChooChooPolice for the information and insight! I appreciate what you’re doing. I definitely see the ebb and flow on the block … it’s better some days than others. Your presence is appreciated. Yes, the drugs etc just move to another block when you crack down here. But I do think it’s important that you send the message that this block (or any others) isn’t some sort of lawless open air drug market where it’s OK to sell/use. The more it’s ignored, the worse it will get. So, thank you for your efforts.
      Like you and others stated, we need to solve the problem higher up the chain … programs for homeless, the addicted, and stopping the import of these drugs.
      Oh, and to all the ‘casual’ drug users out there, you too are part of the problem. Yes, pot is now legal but do you know where yours comes from? Most likely you’re helping to support illegal trafficking of drugs and all the brutality that goes with it.

    • ChooChooPolice, thanks for this background information.

  • Maybe they should close down the Catholic Church across the street, that serves as a part-time shelter and food bank. Perhaps that would help appease you 4-10 year transients who moved here to work in this city. Out of mind, out of site… You all disgust me, and this site does too.

    • I’ve lived in DC for 26 years. I want to see this city improve and thrive. Nobody is saying to close Catholic Charities. We are asking for everyone to be responsible neighbors. It’s good they offer they needed shelter and food. But I don’t think it’s OK that they turn a blind eye to the drug use/sales going on literally on the steps of the church! Let’s work together, be kind and not make assumptions about who’s making comments and observations.

  • I have worked in this area and walked through the MLK overhang every day for 3 years. The drug problems of people hanging out there seem to have gotten worse but I have never been harassed, threatened, or feared for my safety. For context I am a particularly slight woman. I have noticed generally that DC residents harbour a fear of the homeless. DC certainly needs much better support for mental illness and drug addiction amonng other things. But if you’re afraid to go to spend 2 minutes walking by a public library that serves everyone including your city’s most vulnerable I think you should instead spend some time looking more closely at yourself and the systems that have created the thing you fear.

  • It seems quite reasonable to me to be concerned first and foremost about the place where you live. Let’s face it, the problem is too big for any one individual to tackle. So, absent any coordinated effort from the DC government, trying to fix your own block/neighborhood seems like perfectly appropriate. What really concerns me is the general attitude that it is okay for aggressive dangerous and unpredictable behavior here or anywhere. If your next door neighbor in Mather was blasting loud music at 2 am on a work night, I know you would call them, or the management company, or the police – because that is not acceptable. But, here, where the behavior complained of can actually become personally dangerous, you somehow accept it because . . . why? Because they are homeless or poor or because you agree that smoking weed should be legal??? I too agree that smoking weed should be legal but I would NOT accept the behavior of these homeless and other people in my neighborhood. Call 911, call your ANC, call your council member. Organize an association effort to lobby DC government to address it. Just like you follow the rules, so should others in a civil society. And I do not think it is helpful to flippantly suggest that people move to a “red” state for a better way of life. It is not helpful or instructive to ignore a problem by diverting the argument to something that is irrelevant.

    • Blithe

      Mather? Are you suggesting that an appropriate analogy for living in a diverse and complicated major city is a Harvard College dorm?

      • +1. Ugh.

      • Huh? Mather Studios is the name of the apartment building across from the library on G street.

        • Blithe

          Thanks for the info Dognonymous. That gives me a very different context for Concerned…’s comments.

      • Hahahaha. Tell us more about living in a diverse and complicated city, Blithe. We want to hear more about how it’s different from the Harvard dorm.

        • Completely unnecessary comment, Zora. There are actually people in this city who would obliviously compare an entire city to a college bubble and think they know everything — I’ve met them. Sarcasm is not going to get us anywhere.

          • I respect your opinion, FridayGirl. (It just seemed like privileged, self-centered myopia.)

          • Understood. Also, it could have been google’s fault. I googled “Mather” originally and that was one of the first things that came up. I never saw the DC building in the results (obviously this is a common name so I should have searched “Mather DC” or something but…)

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