90°Partly Cloudy

Legal Options for Dealing with a Tough Situation in Adams Morgan?

by Prince Of Petworth September 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm 37 Comments

From the Adams Morgan listserv:

Has anyone dealt with the issue of homeless folks straying onto their property, loitering, and otherwise taking care of their personal business. We live in a 24-unit building. My poor neighbor has had to resort to shoveling excrement to keep it from getting under our cars and our feet. It’s disgusting and it’s got to stop…

We’ve tried to talk to them, and most times they listen. But two of them sometimes get belligerent, and they almost all keep coming BACK!!

What are our legal options here? Would a restraining order work? Are there other legal things we could do?

Are there other things we can do at the back of the property to dissuade homeless (and for that matter drunk people) from using the area around our trash and recycling bins as public bathrooms? Does signage about monitoring or fines work?

We are at our wit’s end.


  • Install some security cameras and, even better, bright motion-activated lights. That should be a pretty good deterrent. They’ll eventually move to a new location once they realize they can’t poop in privacy.

    • adam

      ditto on the motion-activated lights. also, this may not be feasible, but we have a tall, wooden privacy fence that seems to also work. i’ve seen at least one other property on our street recently put one up.

  • Nora


  • Anonymous

    All I can offer is good luck. The police don’t want to bother with them, and it’s not something your council member is bound to touch with a ten foot pole.

  • Second the security cameras / lights. Bring a collection of the footage to your monthly police PSA meeting (find it on mpd.dc.gov). They should be able to step up enforcement.

  • ah

    Have you called the police, or is that useless?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    You could try calling the police.
    You could also contact the Department of Mental Heath and ask them to send a caseworker or other outreach person out. These folks know most of the homeless in the area – what they look like, where they hang out, what their issues are – and might be able to apply a personal touch to resolving your situation.

    • Having worked in with the homeless for over 10 years in the district, I have two suggestions if you are interested in connecting those people who can help to the people who are making your living situation unpleasant:

      1. Call the Homeless Outreach Program through the Department of Mental Health – Office: (202) 673-9124 They are open Monday-Friday 8-3. Provide a description of the individuals, the times of day you see them (and if you see them other places throughout the neighborhood) – This team is tasked with connecting with individuals who are homeless throughout the city and helping to change behavior as well as connect to services.

      2. Call Neighbors Consejo who have a homeless outreach team targeted towards, but not exclusive to homeless Hispanic individuals. They are located on 16th Street and their outreach team can provide the same services as the DMH HOPs team above. You would also provide the Neighbors Consejo team with the same information. 202.234.6855

      *** Remember that these groups can’t work magic overnight, but for your chronic “poopers” they know the proper steps to help curb the damage to your property.

      I would also like to second the other posts suggesting motion sensor lights.

      Hope this helps.

  • From sad experience – I can advise – no legal remedies available, and signs are worthless.

    1. Bums often defecate by resting their bottoms on car bumpers. Coat any susceptible bumpers with crisco or other grease. Likewise any low walls etc.

    Be sure your laundry room is kept locked – we used to have them follow people in front door then crap in the washing machines.

    2.Constant bright lights that “bump up” brighter with motion sensors – plus a loud alarm if you can rig one – plus upstairs residents ready to dump a bucket of water out the window on them.

    3. Dump lots of ammonia or bleach (but not both together) around the toilet area.

    4. If there is any green space – plant barberry or other sticker bushes.

    • Anonymous

      Nice! I like the prickly bush idea! This post made me gag a little, but this reply made me laugh.

    • Anonymous

      I actually prefer the popping sound and childlike wonder of water balloons as opposed to a bucket.

    • Anonymous

      I have mature Barberry shrubs way out here in Stafford, VA if anyone would like them.

  • Mandi

    Try contacting Neighbors Consejo on 16th – they have a homeless outreach contract and might be able to come out and do an intervention.

  • Put up a “No Pooping” sign. Problem solved and I won’t even charge you a fee for my advice!

  • Anonymous

    Motion-activated lights AND sprinklers!

  • Is your condo represented by a law firm? If so, I’d ask them for legal advice about restraining orders, trespassing violations, etc.

    Otherwise, it’s going to require a lot of vigilence on your part, including what others have mentioned such as motion-triggered alarms, lights, etc.

    My building had a similar problem with late-night vandalism. We hired security guards, who were largely useless. When we put in lights and cameras, they went away.

  • Shangela Wadley

    I live in a 27 unit building in Adams Morgan and we have had problems with the homeless roaming around our property as well. I don’t recall any pooping, though. One thing that helped was installing flood lights around the property. Another thing we have done is called the police. But usually the homeless have moved on by the time an officer arrives.

    Our trash/recycling bins currently occupy a shared court yard between our building and the neighboring building. This court yard is fenced off from direct access to the street and the landscaping makes it difficult for someone to walk around the perimeter of the property to enter from a back side. So you could try installing a heavy duty fence or gate or tall bushes or trees to deter people from accessing the trash area. If your building shares a property line with another building, it’s possible that the homeless are straying onto that property as well, so maybe you could both cooperate to help solve this problem.

    A restraining order is pretty unlikely to be approved by a judge unless there is some sort of evidence that the homeless are being, threatening, hostile, etc, or are damaging property — and it is also likely to be costly and time-consuming and might not even solve the problem.

    • Anonymous

      And this may be obvious but you can’t get a restraining order against “pooping homeless people.” It would have to be against named individuals.

  • Nolo

    I’ve never understood why chronically homeless people choose to live in inhospitable areas and/or intemperate climates.

    • Anonymous

      Like San Francisco, which has about 100 times the homeless population of DC. It gets cold as hell out there at night!

    • Anonymous

      you should ask.

      those i’ve asked refer to the fact that dc treats homeless relatively well. theres always a place to get food. we have medical serices they can take advantage of. and some are just from here. this is home.

  • elke

    First World Probl… hrm. maybe not.

  • Anonymous

    I had this same chronic problem when I lived in Adams Morgan. The police rarely do anything. Signs are useless but will help if anything ever requires legal action, lights help a little but fences are best. Followed by other physical deterrents such as slippery, sticky or sharp barricades. If you instal cameras you have to monitor them and then call the police every time it happens. That’s not really practical but you might enjoy watching all the other crimes in your alley that you didn’t know were going down.

  • colleenery

    i had this same problem in adams morgan at my place. homeless constantly on our stoop. sounds extreme, but dialing 911 will dispatch local police and they will come and get them to move along. They came every time we called, usually in less than ten minutes and after several days in a row of doing this, the homeless moved on. They would come back a few weeks later, and repeating the process worked every time, albeit for brief respites but when you’re dealing with shit on your porch, any respite is a blessing. good luck.

  • mh

    Whatever happened to a good-old-fashioned ass-whoopin’? Highly effective.

    • mh

      Maybe it is not technically legal, but still ….:)

  • Anonymous

    pellet guns.

  • live from Columbia Heights

    Wildfire from the roof.

  • Anonymous

    we really should have public toilets.

    • ScoopIt

      It sounds like we do.

  • ShawCitizen

    Well, you could always try laying a trap. I saw some pretty creative ideas in the old Swiss Family Robinson movie….

    In all seriousness, you have to balance the desire to have a deterrent with the legal responsibility of not actually harming anybody. You coat the entry with Crisco and a homeless guy slips and falls (or for that matter, one of your neighbors slips and falls) and you could be sued. Prickly bushes are always a winner (roses if it’s sunny!), but get a fence. If necessary, spring for the cost of a digital access system with a keypad on the door or a key fob – between 24 units it’s very affordable. Then, add Nationals-Stadium-bright lights on a motion detector and additional regular lighting that’s on all night regardless (after checking with neighbors who have windows facing that area to offer to buy them nice blinds or curtains). That will resolve most of the problem. Then, find the neighbor this bothers the most, and introduce them to the neighbor with the best upper-floor view of the area with a window that opens. Buy a megaphone. Sit back and watch the magic :)

  • A fence seems like an obvious solution, either around the trash area or the back of the property in general. If it’s as bad as you describe, I would say it’s worth it.

    Otherwise, vigilante justice.

  • cheights

    We had a homeless guy that decided that our parking lot was a good place to store his crazy man carts. We went out with our dogs (leashed) and told him to get his shit and go. Then pushed his carts into the street and called the cops.

    he never came back.

  • hma

    Could be worse. I once saw a homeless/crazy woman shit ON the hood of a parked car on Conn. ave in the middle of the day.

  • Anonima

    Heh, and most people complain about others not curbing their dogs…

  • eh

    Motion-sensing water sprayer. They make them for scaring deer away from your property.


Subscribe to our mailing list