Thursday, April 03, 2008

Homeless Guy Returns!

In February of 2007 a homeless guy took up residence on the front steps of the antique store on the corner. (Monroe and Avalon) He showed up anywhere from early in the morning to around 10AM and stayed in that spot until dark. He never went anywhere else, nor talked much to anyone. Once in a while, he'd yell at traffic. But mostly, he just sat there all day. For a while, he was bringing a bike with him. No one ever saw him leave at night; he just disappeared. We suspected he took up a spot in the alleyway behind the strip malls on the north side of Union.

We started calling the police on him. The guy told a story about waiting for his girlfriend down the block's boyfriend to leave for work before heading to her apartment and laying up there while the boyfriend was away. Suuuuuuuure.... And the business wasn't posted with signs (it's been closed for years) so the cops couldn't really do anything. Homeless guy would show up anywhere from three to six days a week and just sit there in the shade with his carry-alls and backpack. And he always wore a red cap of some kind; usually knit.

One day, I saw someone working over there and went to introduce myself. Turns out it was the business agent for the elderly woman who owned the antique business! He said she was afraid to come into Midtown for fear of being robbed or killed, so he was taking care of things. I told him about the homeless guy and our problems with him (he had begun to attract the occasional friend).

The agent went out and bought a "Posted No Trespassing" sign to put in the window, right next to where the homeless guy sat. When he got back, the homeless guy was there! Agent told him to get lost, stay gone and if he returned then he'd be arrested. Much yelling, but the homeless guy left.

For a week. Saturday, he returned. And then Sunday. We called the police again. But they told us that since I wasn't the owner or the agent, I had no standing to do more than report a trespasser and they couldn't really do anything but shoo him along. (They gave me the sense that they were getting tired of that, too.) We had to get the agent to sign an "Authorisation of Agency" so the police could actually arrest the guy for showing up.

One problem: we had to have the guy's name. This was the fall now and we still didn't know who he was. The police wouldn't tell us, either. Quandary.

One Sunday night, after he'd been there all day, a bunch of fire trucks show up and break into one of the apartments across the street. There are twenty units in three buildings, but it's abandoned mostly. A handful of apartments have been rented out to some guys attached to the Door of Hope program. I can't understand any agency putting people in there, as there are safety issues (no outside lights in the whole complex at all) and health issues (mold and rot inside the apartments), but their response is always, "Well, where else would you have us put these guys?"

Anyway, turns out someone had broken into the apartment and started a fire while cooking something. Problem was, the guy next door didn't call the fire department and if they hadn't show up, he likely would have died, as he was deep asleep at the time and had no idea what was happening. There was no external sign whatsoever of a fire inside.

Homeless guy showed back up to watch the activity and then I heard someone talking about how the fire department had received a cell phone call about the fire. We know homeless guy has a cell phone, as we've seen him use it. We think homeless guy was actually inside the apartment, maybe sleeping or cooking, and the fire got out of hand. He fled, then called 911. Can't prove this, but it seems to be the concensus of the neighborhood now.

After a few serious squabbles with the cops over the "No Trespassing" sign over the following weeks, he was forced to take up residence west a couple of blocks up the street, under the shade of some old trees. The couple of times I went past him, he gave me the Death Glare.

The situation dragged on until the cold set in, about December. He stopped coming around all winter. We thought he was gone for good.

Nope, he showed back up yesterday. Today, when he returned, I called the agent and the cops. The agent will be down tomorrow if homeless guy shows up again and we'll reolve this once and for all.

Here he is today, napping on the steps:

A closeup:

Just a minute (literally!) before the cops appeared, he suddenly collected his things and moved up the street.

The cops arrived and talked with him. He left for points unknown.

I don't doubt we'll see him tomorrow anyway.

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