When City Councilman Jim Kraft had the park benches removed from the grassy median strips along S. Broadway in July, residents were relieved and thought the Broadway Corridor, long down-in-the-heels compared to much of lower Fell’s Point, might be turning a corner.
That optimism, they say, was premature.
Ed Marcinko, a lifelong Upper Fell’s Point resident and former president of the Upper Fell’s Point Improvement Association, is at his wit’s end.
Marcinko says he is tired of cleaning up after vagrants: bottles, trash, mattresses, and most recently, human feces, condoms, and needles, in a makeshift vagrant’s latrine not far from his house.
“We sent the city emails and filed 311 complaints for five weeks,” he says, referring to the alley near the rear of 417 S. Griffin Ct. near Portugal St. (at Regester St.) that vagrants had used as a bathroom.
Marcinko says he and his neighbors filed 311 requests to have the space cleaned up starting mid-August.
Jeff May, president of UFPIA, says that 311 may have come and taken a mattress away and removed some weeds from the space (the condition of area is such that he can’t tell) but no one dealt with the feces.
Four or five 311 requests later–all cc’d to Kraft’s office and local community groups–and the feces was still in the alley, reports Marcinko.
“Neighbors cleaned it up themselves last week,” he says.
Why did 311 not clean up the excrement?
“The 311 supervisor who called me said there was confusion on the location,” Marcinko says, adding that there also seemed to be confusion as to which city agency was responsible for cleaning up human feces–DPW or Housing.
Marcinko says he’s still not sure under whose purview human feces falls.
“311 told me that Housing is in charge of cleaning up human feces,” he says. “But Housing might say, ‘Hey, not us.’ Don’t you think that when you call 311, the operator should know who deals with human feces?”
Marcinko says he personally believes that 311 requests are frequently sent to the wrong departments.
Emails from the Baltimore Guide to Kraft’s office asking why the feces didn’t get cleaned up; which agency is responsible for cleaning human feces; and what caused the delay, were not answered.
For his part, May notes that 311 doesn’t seem to be aware of all the options for dealing with homeless/vagrants either.
“Specifically, the Mayor’s Office of Human Services told us we can call 311 to request ‘Homeless Outreach’ if we observe a person who we believe is a vulnerable homeless person who might benefit from a visit from outreach workers,” May explains. “When I called 311, the operator was unaware of this service and didn’t know how to process the request. They forwarded me to a City Hall operator, and they weren’t aware either–although they did transfer me to the correct office.”
Residents claim that the filthy alley is just one of several recent vagrant-related problems near S. Broadway. Another is vagrants trespassing.
“Vagrants have been breaking into the yard at 412 S. Regester St., a vacant home that is for sale,” says May. “When the police are called, they arrive and tell the vagrants to move along. They say they don’t arrest them because there is no ‘No Trespassing’ sign posted.”
May says the owner of 412 S. Regester apparently does not live nearby.
Neighbors put up “No Trespassing “signs and boarded up the yard fence at the house over the last few days. Since then, the vagrants have not been seen in the yard, says Marcinko.
Still, the Griffin Ct. alley and Portugal St.(at Regester St.) areas continue to be used as toilets, Marcinko reports.
Residents and Kraft’s office are trying to come up with some solutions.
May says that he and his neighbors are trying to get the Portugal St. alley gated. The gates would be placed at Portugal and Griffin streets and at Portugal and Regester streets.
“The gates have successfully deterred vagrancy in areas where they have been installed,” he says.
And Kraft’s Broadway Corridor group continues to meet, and its crime and vagrancy committee (which meets Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Polish Home Club), is working on establishing a Nuisance Offenders Community Database.
“We are still seeking input from the community on what would be the most useful format. Our hope is that community members would be able to use this tool to track repeat offenders and observances along South Broadway. We have considered using NextDoor or a Google Docs to compile this information,” says Shannon Dawkins Wrenn, Kraft’s community aide. “We [are] hopeful this kind of record would create pressure on individuals in the neighborhood to seek help or face the consequences.”
Wrenn adds that the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office will be sending a representative to the next Broadway Corridor crime and vagrancy committee meeting.
In the meantime, Marcinko fears his neighbors are simply tired of calling on the city for help and are losing hope.
“I mean, we’re talking about three or four blocks along Broadway and a handful of vagrants—less than 20 people. Many of them are not actually homeless. They have alcohol problems. Why can’t we get a drunk tank? You wouldn’t see this happening at the Inner Harbor, would you?” Marcinko says.
“I love this neighborhood, but it could be so much better.”
by Danielle Sweeney