UT Reader Asks: Unwelcome on the Porch

by UrbanTurf Staff

UT Reader Asks: Unwelcome on the Porch: Figure 1

In this installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a new resident in a Columbia Heights group house is wondering how to politely ask some unwanted loiterers to leave her porch.

My friends and I recently rented a group row house in Columbia Heights. The day we moved in, a couple guys were hanging out on the porch of the house, and they actually helped us move stuff and were very friendly and welcoming. But since then, this same pair of guys hangs out on our porch every morning, drinking. We don't know where they live exactly or why they've chosen our porch as their morning watering hole, but they are clearly guys from the neighborhood. They don't really bother us, they don't make too much noise, and they don't threaten us at all -- although one of them sports an electronic tracking ankle bracelet, so evidently he's on probation of some kind.

My roommates and I are wondering what to do about the situation. We fear that by telling them they can't come around anymore, we'll invite trouble. And since they don't actually cause any trouble now, we also wonder if we should care at all.

What would UT readers suggest?

Post your thoughts in the comments section. If you would like to submit a question for UrbanTurf Reader Asks, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ut_reader_asks_unwelcome_on_the_porch/5771


  1. Melissa said at 5:28 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    A funny situation...for everyone except the residents. I would approach them (in a friendly way) and just kindly ask them to leave. They must realize, to some degree, that they are encroaching on your space.
  1. Tom A. said at 5:52 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    I'd be sure not to have a comfortable space for them to sit. If they're sitting on the concrete, I'd leave your dog out there for a while. 😃
  1. george said at 5:52 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    helped u move stuff? they were probably scoping out your stuff. we shouldnt tolerate public drinking in columbia heights
  1. bd said at 6:12 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    Serious? Grow a set and tell them to get the hell off your porch. If you really need an explanation to make yourself feel more comfortable with your existence, here you go: 1. Ask them to leave? Asking is entirely inappropriate. Its your space, not theirs! If you ask them to leave, you might as well ask them each morning if it is okay for you to wear a pair of pants. 2. Passive-aggressively move your porch furniture so that their time spent on your porch is more uncomfortable? Why not just buy them a gift-card to Frontgate so that they can decorate your porch as they like? 3. Public drinking isn't even the problem! It is someone else drinking on your porch, not providing beer to you, and without your invitation! Would it be a problem if you were drinking a beer on your porch? Hells no! They helped you move, awfully nice of them. But are they paying rent? Respect yourself, and respect them - tell them to leave.
  1. anon said at 6:21 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    They've chosen your private property because they can't drink openly in public and they've scoped you out as a softie who will put up with it. Open containers are still illegal in this context, but their actions are less likely to be conspicuous on private property than public. And one public intoxication arrest is all it would take for your ankle braceleted friend to return to jail. Ask them politely to leave (why on eartrh did you accept their offer of help in the first place?). Unless they wish to join your rental group house, they have no business hanging out in your non-public space. The alternative is to gate your street entry to prevent access. I remember being surprised at how many of these I saw in hippy dippy Haight Ashbury, but it makes sense when a place is a magent for transients and party people who puke, relieve themselves, and leave trash where they please (sometimes all three).
  1. jag said at 6:36 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    WTF, what an absurd situation. I really don't know what I'd do at this point...how did you not ask "can I help you?" and proceed to kick them off the very first time they were there? I guess that's what I'd still do at this point, though obviously it's now become a really funky situation. Just say "can you guys find somewhere else to drink? K. Thanks." and give them a chance to move on. If they don't, tell them your landlord has instructed you to start calling the police. If they still keep setting up camp on the property every day then start actually calling the police.
  1. anon said at 8:56 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    I'm with @jag -- 'my [property management company] [landlord] [wife] etc left me an [e-mail] [note under my door] [text or voice message] saying they didn't want people hanging on the stoop. Could you guys move along somewhere else?' That ankle bracelet is your friend -- they won't make waves over this.
  1. Roy said at 10:45 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    Politely ask them to leave, but make sure you have a cell phone handy in case they become upset. In my neighborhood I just call the police. You can't ask anyone to do anything. The police even told me to just always call them if there are any problems. Of course the speed of DC police can be iffy depending on the situation.
  1. S2hindc said at 10:47 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    How about calling police non-emergency and telling them (anonymously) that there are some guys drinking on the block and causing problems and that you are about to approach them and get all vigilante on them (even though you're not). The pice will arrive quIckly - they'll ask the loiterers for ID and when they don't have ID that says they belong there, they'll make sure they move along. And the guy with the ankle bracelet will go quietly, I'm sure.
  1. Ed said at 11:28 pm on Monday July 16, 2012:
    You probably realize by now having strangers help you move was a massive mistake and I hope a lesson was learned. As a group (don't do this solo) tell the drinkers on your porch "I am sorry guys but my landlord said he is going to call the police if you stay here so we need to have you go. Sorry!". If they don't go, call the police. This is important because many people with ankle bracelets have committed violent crimes. Keep calling the police if they keep showing up.
  1. janson said at 8:22 pm on Wednesday July 18, 2012:
    I love this post! A situation comedy of layers of additions to a community. You have arrivals in order of recent (renters) and less recent (advice givers) and even less recent (porch squatters)all trying to negotiate power and normative behaviors. Personally, I find the advice so far mostly pretty bad. Who wants a rock in their window? These porch squatters are real people with real problems and real egos. Identify the concrete outcome that you want that they can identify with as reasonable so they don't have to back down. Or give them an authentic sense that you have overwhelming power. Or never give them any boundaries and let them continue to seek them. I would sit down with them in the morning with a can of beer and ask them, smiling, how they got started with such a pleasant avocation. If they aren't convivial, you can clearly say, I don't want non-convivial people on my porch. That would be just. If they are convivial, you may just have made great new friends in your community. Create boundaries, be respectful, be prepared to show and use power in a way that they understand. Same rules everyplace. If you call the police, going around a direct interaction, you should expect the same from them. By the way, your behavior has been confusing for them. Why did you accept help? was it in exchange for letting them sit on the porch? Seems like a fair trade to me. Ask them to look out for scoundrels for you. ha ha

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