“Harassment Outside Union Station”

by Prince Of Petworth May 4, 2016 at 2:15 pm 60 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Ian Livingston

“Has anyone else felt increasingly unsafe while walking outside Union Station in the past couple months? I have noticed more people who appear to be suffering from mental issues, drug addiction, and homelessness loitering outside. In the past couple months, I’ve seen people urinating, someone openly smoking crack, and someone under the influence of some hallucinogen pretending to punch people in the head. Today, a homeless man threatened to “smack the glasses off my face” when I wouldn’t give him money. This is occurring during daylight hours, generally immediately after work. I’ve had the same walk for three years, and I don’t remember ever feeling so unsafe outside Union Station until a couple months ago. I’m just wondering a) if other people have noticed this increase b) what can be done about it. ”

  • stacksp

    It’s actually gotten much better. They have cleared out the section where most of the loitering occurred. I work on Mass and traverse this area daily. The loiterers are generally harmless in my opinion. I’ve never been threatened or harassed for not participating in their pan handling endeavors. Sorry that it happened to you but the area used to be far worse. As recent as last year

    • Anon

      +1 Have to agree. I also work near here on Mass Ave and have noticed over the last few months considerably less loitering and other problems as well as an increased law enforcement presence of DHS police, Amtrak police, and some MPD. I guess it depends maybe on the time of day, maybe.

  • Jan

    After a long day of work, I prefer not to have to see or hear from people who can’t take responsibility for themselves or their actions. Bootstraps, people! I say lock these nuisances up and throw away the key. God knows we have enough police sitting around not doing anything.

    • Anon

      Yeah but mental illness and addiction are hard things for someone to overcome on their own. These people would benefit more from counseling than jail time.

      • anon

        It’s also hard to overcome the inability to detect sarcasm.

        • ET

          I would agree but there are actually people who feel this way and without some other clue sarcasm is often hard to discern on the Internet in a comments section.

          • FridayGirl

            +10000. Sarcasm like this isn’t funny.

          • textdoc

            Agreed with ET. The comment didn’t sound sarcastic to me, and Jan hasn’t come back to say whether he/she was being sarcastic.

          • albany

            Jan said “Bootstraps, people! I say lock these nuisances up….” tongue firmly in cheek. It’s only funny because it’s the exact hyperbole that internet people resort to about anyone less well off than they are.

      • annonny

        Too bad pubic-provided counseling and medication is only available if the person wants it and seeks it out. There has to be some better way of addressing mental health needs short of reverting to institutionalizing people, but has anybody figured it out?

    • accendo

      You seem nice.

    • A

      You seem like a good person who somehow knows all the details of the lives of others. Cool! Tell me your secret.

    • 031107

      You should read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.

    • mdtodc

      I really can’t tell. Are you being sarcastic? I was about to make a “you must be new here” comment but there is a fair comment about sarcasm. The bootstraps thing also seems like you might be joking. Really though, I am genuinely curious. Is this sarcasm?

    • DupontDC

      Nice sarcasm, but you really don’t think the things OP posted are a problem?

  • Anon

    Do you mean directly outside of the station, or in the vicinity? If in the vicinity, which direction? I’ve never noticed this stuff walking around there, but I’m usually coming and going from the Capitol Hill direction.

  • J

    Personally, I never walk through the promenade anymore. I always cut straight out to get on the Capitol grounds. Takes a couple minutes longer for me, but it is far more pleasant.

  • Jamin Jimmy

    Sounds like Union Station

    • TX2DC

      I was thinking the same thing. There’s always been lots of loitering around the station.

  • Rower32

    Classic US, nothing to see here.

  • ET

    I know they cleared out a lot of that along 1st but the homeless shelter has never been that far away and the construction and closures associated with that for the Capitol Crossing project may be changing some of the dynamic.

    • nevermindtheend

      Yeah, I’d be willing to bet this is at least partially due to displacement caused by Capitol Crossing construction.

  • 031107

    It seems to me there is so much development going on throughout DC and that the city is becoming increasingly affluent. Not to mention the amount of displacement is that is going on with low-income (often minority) members of the community.

    That being said, I can recall an increase in number of “loiterers” at Union Station over the last few months. I wonder if this is the result of the closing of a homeless shelter or if the homeless population is growing. Or maybe the homeless seem more apparent now that the city is becoming more affluent.

    • Anon

      The city cleared out a popular camp under the bridge on First Street right outside Union Station. I would assume people who might prefer to hang out there now are hanging out elsewhere in and around Union Station. However, homelessness is increasing as affordable rentals become more scarce in DC (and, really, all over the country). Family homeless is becoming a huge problem.

  • Anon

    I know it small in comparison to harassment, but people are smoking next to the “no smoking” signs all day long. I wonder if they enforced the smoking rules if it would help the other situations.

  • hiphopanonymous

    I’ve definitely seen a man urinating in plain sight (well, into a corner) during my morning commute, and have made sure to stay away from the man screaming at nothing, but so far no one has harrassed me. That being said, I wouldn’t feel too safe walking through there alone late at night.

  • Hill Res

    Not just Union Station.

    I come home by the SE Neighborhood Library near the CVS/Eastern Market…about 6-10 folks sitting there on the steps/rock wall heckling the passers-by on a daily basis.

    • Caroline

      Yeah, but that’s not a new thing (also in my experience those guys keep to themselves).

    • Cassie

      Yeah, I’ve never been bothered by those guys either. I mean we exchange hello’s and how’s it going’s, but that’s it.

  • anon

    At least you didn’t see a large naked man sunbathing like I did. That shit was gross.

    • Caroline

      Whaaaaat where?

      • anon

        It was about a year ago on the east side steps of the postal museum(?). I was walking down the sidewalk to get flowers from the guys that sell them down on union station’s side entrance. Anyways while walking down the sidewalk I saw bare feet poking out from the stoop of the building then glanced over and there it was, some dudes package just chillin. I told my wife she better enjoy those damn flowers bc she doesn’t realize what I can never un-see. City life man, city fuckin life……

        • Kingman Park

          I saw a nice large naked lady outside of the Judiciary Square metro about a year and a half ago. Can’t unburn that image from my brain…
          At least the police were very gentle with her as she was clearly under some mental distress.

  • Nope, same old shit.

  • Anon1

    I walk through the promenade area every day, to and from work, and it has gotten significantly worse the last few months. I was wondering what was going on as well but attributed it to winter weather and people seeking shelter under the overhangs. I’ve been doing that commute for years, and it has still been the most significant uptick in drugs/loitering I’ve seen there

  • AdMoRez

    I’m going to have to agree with the poster, I’ve worked around, and now by Union Station (next door by the glass building) for 8 years, and yes I think it has gotten steadily worse. There are more bums, people begging (sometimes shouting) for money more than ever before. I also see people high out of their minds, people with no shoes or shirts off walking around like zombies. I also got heckled a few months ago by a group of ghetto thugs. I was walking by them, to which they said “Yous an ugly muddafucka! You’s a goofy ass looking mud-fucka!” I didn’t turn my head to look at them and paid no attention while walking fast by, then one said “Ching chong ching chong!” being racist towards me. I think it was the same folks who later that afternoon, punched the old guy on the red line and left him disoriented looking for his wife. The area around Union Station is definitely on the decline, they need more police enforcement of the crazy people around there.

    • textdoc

      I wonder if the increase in people acting crazy is a result of synthetic marijuana.

      • Lisa

        The driver in front of me this morning almost hit a woman who was clearly completely out of her mind and just darted out into Columbus Circle traffic in front of Union Station. Nowhere near a crosswalk, completely oblivious to the cars and clearly on something – she just kept right on walking as folks slammed on their breaks. And frankly scary if you are a driver – no matter how careful, no one’s prepared for that.

    • Anon

      I work by Union Station and can’t say I’ve noticed a particular uptick, although I live in Cap Hill so am generally headed east (and it sounds like what ppl are complaining about is more on the west side). There are definitely a lot of homeless in the front area, probably coming from the Union Mission, and some are aggressive. There are always a lot of security guards and police and other people around though.

    • Anonymous

      Whoa- sorry for your experience. That is utterly ridiculous. Union Station is pretty much an embarrassment for me when I bring family from out of town there. It should be an embarrassment for the city given the number of tourists and business people from out of town, coming and going there. That said, I I love my Neuhaus and my Shophouse (the two best parts of Union Station)!!

  • Girl on a Hill

    The crack-smoking and hallucinogens are worrisome and I’ve definitely witnessed that in action. There’s certainly been an uptick in the blatant drug use imo. For some reason in the morning it doesn’t seem as bad to me, maybe people aren’t awake yet (or on enough drugs yet). The evening is worse. Almost every time I walk that outdoor hallway of heckling after 5pm with shorts or a dress on get I verbally harassed.

    • annonny

      Now that weed is legal in DC, is it possible that drug dealers have switched to selling the harder stuff to people who used to just want to blaze? If so, what a horrendous unintended consequence…

      • Shawz

        There are still plenty of drug dealers selling weed, considering that selling weed is still illegal.

  • Cherry

    I agree with OP, there has definitely been an uptick in loiterers and the surrounding area has become increasingly unsafe. I get on the Metro bus at Mass Ave and North Capitol. There is always a huge group of homeless men congregating at that corner and they line about 1/4th of the block. They have never bothered me but there will always be a few who approach asking for cash. I learned that this block is actually a pick up area for a bus transport to a homeless facility. So that explains why they’re at this particular intersection. Also, there’s the homeless shelter at 1st and Mass Ave which explains the huge homeless population in the area. Again, they haven’t bothered me but it’s just that I’ve noticed their numbers have definitely grown over the past few months.

  • SeventhStreet

    I’ve worked near Union Station for 17 yrs and overall The neighborhood has gotten far far safer, but I agree there’s been an unusual type up a tech may be in the last six months or so. I’m talking about the area next to the 1st St NE side entrance. I saw a guy urinating on the sidewalk in front of everybody, and had not seen that in 17 years of walking by there. Yesterday there was an older African-American woman talking and yelling at her self and passes by. It’s fairly recent that the Union Mission relocated to Mass Ave just west of N Capitol St. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the number of people who seem to either be seriously mentally ill or on drugs. Silverlining though – – far fewer preachers/nuts with megaphones yelling at you about your sins than there used to be.

  • SeventhStreet

    *apologies for all the typos and weird autocorrects ^^

  • Boom

    “I’m just wondering a) if other people have noticed this increase b) what can be done about it. ”
    Homelessness, drug addiction, mental issues are prevalent in pretty much every major city that I can think of. I can assure you that the issues that you’ve encountered in the past 3 months are nothing compared to what it was yrs ago. So maybe the best thing for you to do (and I hate to be that guy) is to move to the suburbs.

    • Anon

      I actually see more homeless people in Crystal City, where I work, than in most parts of DC. So I’m not sure the suburbs are the answer.

      • thursty

        Really? I work in CC and I only ever see like three homeless people by the metro. Maybe I need to get off Crystal Drive more often…

  • Mister Frackles

    I avoid walking outside certain parts of Union Station for this reason. I’ve seen and heard some of the craziest things by the folks who loiter right outside ready to harass pedestrians. They are even sometimes shouting about violent plans to kill people. It makes me sad that the city allows it because I imagine it looks pretty bad when there are tourists coming in and out of Union Station and see this as one of their first impressions.

  • Anon

    Union Station was modeled after Milano Centrale. It is only appropriate that the environment be similar too. I grew up in Milan and that train station taught me all about addiction and overdoses. Union Station better be seedy as well.
    In all seriousness, I live on H and occasionally walk home from Union Station at night. I generally assume nothing will happen given how many people are passing by/through, but I’m really not a fan when it’s a quiet night.

  • Shaw5

    Last spring, during my lunch break, I walked to Union from my office to grab lunch. As I was walking back to my office a group of (what appeared to be homeless) men on bikes started cat calling me and following me. Eventually when I paid them no attention they got angry and starting closely circling me and yelling horrible obscenely sexual and racial slurs. One got incredibly close and spat right on my face while yelling “That’s what we do to crackers!” The worst part? This was the middle of a busy lunch house, I was surrounded by tons of people, none of which cared at all to step in or at least walk next to me to my office. I was the third woman in my office to be harassed in the area in a matter of a couple of months. Anybody commenting on this that the area is actually safe is naive, unperceptive and just plain dumb.

  • figby

    This is shockingly bad. Deranged, slightly menacing people at a train station? Whatever next?

  • I. Rex

    I have to agree with the OP. Outside Union station and the areas outside post office seems worse particularly at night. I wouldn’t put it on par with MLK library just yet, but that’s the gold standard for harassment.

  • DCmom

    I’ve lived next to Union Station for 16 years and walked through it on a regular basis for 20. It’s the dirtiest I’ve ever seen it and that includes from when we first lived here under the reign of Mayor-for-life. They used to clean up outside and now it’s filthy. There have always been the “regular” homeless crowd there, but there seems to be an influx of different folks who are much more aggressive.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      I agree. Union Station has definitely had its ups and downs over the years, and it feels like it’s on a downward trajectory at the moment. If the planned massive development over the railyard directly behind the station comes to fruition, I’d expect things to improve around there.

  • dcinsider2

    Who has jurisdiction here? Is it the city or the feds? The problem most of the time is that no one “owns” the property, so you don’t have anyone to complain to. I’d suggest complaining here is probably not the most effective means to address the issue.

  • S

    I go to GULC and walk by Union on my way home and agree with OP that it’s gotten a lot worse in the past couple months. I have been harassed multiple times by the same woman, who does not appear to have all of her faculties. It’s unnerving to deal with as her behavior, and what insults she will hurl at me, are extremely erratic.
    There have been a number of incidents recently with GULC students. A friend was punched and had her bag stolen on 1st NE and Mass and another friend was held at gunpoint on G between North Capitol and 1st NW. There are a number of other anecdotes, but the point is that there has been an uptick in harassment and crime in the station area (at least given personal experiences/experiences of friends).

  • roberta J. Wynter

    I work in Union Station, and this is a huge problem. On the one hand, I feel really badly for these people. To me, everyone deserves shelter and food. On the other hand, I find the harassment to be annoying at best and scary at worst. The area immediately surrounding Union Station has tons of resources for the homeless. The Mitch Snyder Center is but 2 blocks away; ditto DC Central Kitchen. The sad fact is that many of these people are schizophrenic and refuse services. I’m not sure what the answer is, but something needs to be done.

  • roberta J. Wynter

    I work in Union Station, and this is a huge problem. On the one hand, I feel really badly for these people. To me, everyone deserves shelter and food. On the other hand, I find the harassment to be annoying at best and scary at worst. The area immediately surrounding Union Station has tons of resources for the homeless. The Mitch Snyder Center is but 2 blocks away; ditto DC Central Kitchen. The sad fact is that many of these people are schizophrenic and refuse services. I’m not sure what the answer is, but something needs to be done. Union Station management is totally unresponsive to requests from tenants and those who use the space, and their security is a joke.


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