Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Miki J.

“Dear PoPville,

Odd question. What’s the etiquette when a neighbor repeatedly knocks on your back door to ask for money?

Longtime DC resident/renter, but my wife and I just bought a small row home on a mixed income, mixed age, mixed race, mixed family, block in Columbia Heights earlier this year. Within our first couple months in the new house some young neighbors that we had not previously met, but share an alley with, began coming through our back patio gate unannounced (the fence and gate are chest height and easily jumped over, so we don’t bother locking it), knocking on our back door, and asking for money (for diapers, auto repairs etc.).

My wife obliged and gave them a little money once or twice, but declined the third time.

After months without incident, last night after dark this same neighbor came through our back gate and knocked on our back door again. We didn’t answer this time and, after five minutes or so of knocking, they left.

What’s the etiquette in this situation? Is a neighbor letting themselves in through your back gate unannounced after dark (or any time of day for that matter) and knocking on your back door with some frequency cause for concern? We’d rather it not happen anymore, but we don’t want to be jerks or condescend by saying “hey, this is unacceptable, so please leave and never come back” especially if they really are in need and have nowhere else to turn. I’m considering recommending some social services or charities to them, but that might be unwelcome conversation and presumptuous as well.

What’s the right thing to do?”


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