Homeless street people have long been a problem in many urban areas.
The homeless congregated outside subway entrances and hung out on the streets in and around Washington during our 23 years as residents of Arlington. Many panhandled.
The homeless are now an issue in Roanoke’s revamped Market Square, where business owners complain that the street people scare off customers by occupying seats and tables newly installed along pedestrian walkways.
A homeless man on the streets of Floyd recently dominated discussions on Facebook and brought complaints to the town and sheriff’s department. He panhandled some and cussed out those who tried to ignore him.
Some say the problem will get worse in the summer when events like FloydFest bring those who hitchhike to town, arrive without a place to stay or money to eat and beg for handouts.
Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey explored the problems of street people in his paper Wednesday, quoting shop owners who say business is down at much at 68 percent.
Debra Goflia of Birdy’s Loft at Center in the Square told Casey the new tables on the street are occupied by those who pee on the street or “poop in their pants and walk around barefoot.”
Roanoke police, she says, can’t do anything because the city doesn’t have a loitering ordinance.
That’s the same issue that arose when Floyd’s recent homeless man arrived on his bicycle and started harassing people at the Farmer’s Market, the Country Store and other locations.
“He was dirty, he smelled to high heaven and he was rude,” said Debra Curren, a visitor to Floyd. “He’s not what I expected when I came to see the area.”
He’s gone now, although reports vary as to where. One report has him committed to the Virginia mental facility in Marion.
Like Roanoke, Floyd’s ordinances regarding loitering and the presence of “street people” are vague. A “loitering allowed” sign hangs in front of the Country Store but it’s a promotion sign for the store not a statement of town policy.
One of the street people who talked to Casey for his column took issue with being called homeless.
“I’m not homeless — I’m houseless,” 35-year-old P.R. Strange told Casey. He added that he has faced similar criticism for living on the streets in Florida, Oregon and North Carolina.
That’s one thing about the homeless. They seem to get around…a lot.