Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Victoria Pickering

“Dear PoPville,

There is a woman that lives outside of Seaton Elementary School on 10th Street NW. She’s been there for a few months, in all conditions. We’ve dropped off left overs for her and exchanged polite pleasantries at times. We’ve called the shelter hotline on particularly cold nights, concerned for her safety. Until recently we haven’t had any other concerns related to her.

Over the past few weeks, however, she’s consistently been using our alley as a bathroom. With our block full of curious kids and dogs, and rain too infrequent to be a reliable clean up method, a few of us neighbors have done our best to continually clean up after her.

Additionally, there are three construction sites within our square block and she’s been stealing materials (of nominal value) like a handful of bricks, plastic temporary fencing material, etc.

She has been caught in both acts and politely asked to stop, to no avail.

We have contacted the DC Department of Human Services office multiple times hoping to get her some help — a place to stay, health and hygiene services, etc. — and haven’t gotten a call or email back. After the construction site thefts, we reached out to our local police precinct for other resource ideas — no one wants to see her arrested for something so basically human, but we would also like to see both activities cease.

Homelessness is a clear issue in DC and we want to be sympathetic to someone that’s already suffering, but we’re at a loss as to what to do next. Maybe there is nothing we can do. Looking for meaningful and compassionate suggestions.

Ed. Note: another reader has provided the following info: “I’ve been dealing with a woman who hangs out in front of my building, who has threatened me several times and has recently tried to follow another neighbor into the building. It’s hard to find the right balance of compassion and self-protection. One of my neighbors let me know that there’s now a 24-hour hotline (see above) for people to call if they suspect someone is in need of psychiatric help.”


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