Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More on Area Homelessness: The Importance of Being Vigilant

Yesterday evening, the missus and I were walking home north along 14th St. around 9:45 PM. We had just crossed Corcoran St., when a man walking briskly down the street caught our attention and said "If I were you guys, I'd cross over the street to the other side...there's a guy behind me who just chased me down the block."

We looked up to see a man about 100 feet away, shouting incoherently and seemingly coming towards us. We thanked the man for his warning, and quickly made the decision to cross over to the other side of the street. As we were crossing, Shouting Man began screaming at us in some incoherent tirade that was impossible to decipher--there was clearly something off with the guy. After crossing, we turned back around to watch the man proceed on down the street. There was another individual who had been walking behind us; as Shouting Man passed this individual he reached out and shoved him, all the while continuing his tirade.

Figuring that nothing can come of these situations if they aren't reported, I placed a call to the police from my cell phone to describe the situation. I made it clear to the dispatcher that the man appeared to be mentally unstable. The police responded within minutes, and followed up with me a short while later regarding an interview.

What became of the man we have no idea, but we're posting this here as a reminder to everyone of the importance of calling the police when you witness this type of behavior. It was quite evident that the man was either high on some sort of narcotics or was suffering from some kind of mental dementia--or perhaps a combination of both. Individuals such as he are among the most dangerous to encounter on the street, because they're so unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

This also highlights the critical necessity of the proper funding of drug treatment programs and mental health care for the homeless and indigent in DC--something that ties in with my wife's homelessness post below. Drug dependancy and mental illness among the homeless population are crippling, and it will require a concerted effort on the part of both the city government and private agencies to step up and address these problems. If you're looking for an agency to support that deals with these issues, we'd recommend starting with the Community of Hope, located at 14th and Girard St. They offer comprehensive services to the poor and homeless, including a wealth of health and social service programs. Agencies such as CoH are frequently the only hope offered to individuals such as the one we encountered last night.

1 comment:

IMGoph said...

not going to drag this out too long, but here's an encounter i had with a man who was clearly disturbed in your hood:

a couple weeks ago, i was biking home from whole foods. while waiting at the light at 14th and P, a man (presumbaly homeless, given his clothing) got off the bench at the bus shelter there and came out in the road to start shouting at me.

he ended up hitting me on the top of the head (thank goodness for a bike helmet!). he seemed relatively harmless, so i just told him to back off. he took another swing at me (and missed), then the light changed and i headed home.

of course, maybe it could have been worse. perhaps i was lucky. i guess in the end, just keep aware of your surroundings. it was 5:30 in the afternoon, the sun was still up, and there were literally dozens of people around, but you still need to make sure you know what's going on around you. crazy stuff doesn't just happen in the middle of the night.