Our New Neighbors

For over 35 years of our 38 years on Court Street, our neighbors over the back fence were Legal Aid and Legal Services.  Unbeknownst to us, they moved out a year or so ago and we found out Saturday that what we had begun to suspect was true WAS true…in the small space between our fence and the building behind us, a homeless camp had sprung up.  We have a nice yard, I have a little sewing studio at the back of our yard…it has heat and water…this makes me feel like a super-consumer when on the other side of the fence…well take a look.  I don’t want to make this funny (though me holding my phone up for photos over the fence did have a comic aspect…) because it isn’t funny for them and it isn’t funny for us.  Our ladder has been stolen, trash has been winged over the fence into our yard, they don’t have anyplace else to sleep…we all have issues we are dealing with…

So later on we walked around the building to check out the scene…not good…

We called the police but we may not complain, that has to be the property owner.  We found the owner and contacted them, they called the police, but of course they need to get in there and clean it up, put up some fences, post it “no trespassing”…in the mean time there are people sleeping back there tonight…the “homeless crisis” arrives on our doorstep…


  1. How sad, and rather frightening. Looks like you have one of the rougher camps. Here they “cleaned up” a big camp from under a bridge and now those folks are set up in tents and all kinds of crazy “housing” contraptions on just about every street corner and traffic island in that area of DC. It looks quite fun and like some sort of crazy festival until you realize what it really is…here in the nation’s capital.
    Good luck getting it sorted out – hopefully with least worst options for all. -Eileen

  2. I have mixed feelings about pushing that like button,as it isn’t a likable position to be in! Maybe if they would go lighter on that Black mess……

  3. I’m sorry you and Roger are having to deal with this. It must feel like a lose-lose proposition. My heart goes out to people who don’t have a home and who have to deal with inclement weather, lack of heat and food and other insecurities. On the other hand, the total lack of respect for others’ property and even their own spaces is difficult to understand. I guess that all comes from having the benefit of a roof, an income, and (relatively) good mental health shouldn’t be taken for granted. As much as we all wish that others had all that we have, there will always be inequalities in every society that can’t be fixed.

  4. Oh Dear Bonnie….What a nightmare, for all of us. Many are talking about this, but no one seems to have a solution. It is heartbreaking to think our brothers and sisters are living in such conditions. And on the other hand, we who have worked so hard to feather our nests need to be protected from the vandalism. I have been busy restoring a small house (on the other side of State St.) that was broken into and used for a shelter. The mess was so disgusting, the house had to be gutted. . . . With all the cuts to mental health, etc., I can only see the problem as getting worse. It is a sad time in America.

  5. I’m afraid we have to agree with Shirley. It IS a nightmare and as she succinctly put it, the problem can only get worse. We are sad for you and for Roger as a homeless camp on the other side of your fence is unnerving to say the least. Probably unfair to feel this way, but I would not be comfortable in the little sewing studio by myself until the camp was emptied and cleaned up. Too close for comfort.

  6. Oh Bonnie! The song by Gregory Porter — Take Me To The Alley — is to the point. There was a man living behind my house many years ago in California. I didn’t know what to do, I was a single parent and my two children were very young. He never came over the fence but I could see him and his things sometimes. One day he was gone…

  7. How the rubber hit the road on thos one. A major social reality has not been effectively addressed by government so that you find yourselves personally responsible for the garbage and other hazards of volunteer campers who are themselves just seeking shelter and safety.
    And it is no where near that simple.
    I don’t know if others read the 3 page, front page story in this past New York Times about a mentally ill chronically homeless women who preferred the streets to other public options. She was free from following rules and perceived threats/dangers of public shelters and simply had no interest in this type of aid. Being paranoid was the basis for all of these decisions.
    The quandary of freedom verses social responsibility is fundamental to social organization.
    Our society puts the greatest value on freedom but it is an unexamined bias. It is a knee jerk philosophy that does not hold up to reality, human nature, sanitation or public health concerns. We can easily be intolerant individually or in matters of politics and religion while collectively tolerating or being forced to tolerate the intolerable.
    By conditioning we do not think collectively. I used to read or hear in class the term “the common good”. It never appears anymore in anything I read.
    Perhaps we are too wedded to concepts. Maybe we should be more provisional in our values, our absolutes and think on our feet.
    This is as far as I will take this particular screed although I think these last thoughts brings into question the elusive role of spiritual values which happen to be fundamental to the human experience.

    1. Peg this is a wonderful treatise on homelessness and our current state of affairs. Thank you. I DID read the NYT article you mentioned and thought about it quite a bit as our scene was unfolding. I have always believed that civic involvement was a requirement for living in a democracy, but that seems not as important to younger people coming up. Last night R read me survey where only 29% of millennials felt living in a democracy was important. There is a seismic shift underway.

      As I walked through the rubble behind our fence I tried to imagine myself in such circumstances as I realize there is a thin line that separates homelessness and even minor prosperity. I wanted to tidy up, to make a potty, get overhead shelter…the divide might be wider than we think? This cold sunny morning a girl crossed the street in front of our car at 17th and Mission in bare feet, jammie pants, meth sores on her face and arms…I don’t know, I really don’t know.

    1. Ellen, the property owners have posted no trespassing signs, though this morning somebody is sleeping right under the sign. They say they will clean it up. That might solve our problem, but not the greater problem. I’d have less trouble with it if it weren’t such a hideous mess with food refuse, clothes, feces…all in a big pile. I noted a new 200 bed facility for men (and it’s mostly men behind us, tho not always…) is to be built across from the new police station…

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