Mar 4, 2007

Have all the Madison street people gone away?

It appears to me that, since the bar "Club Chocolate City" closed on March 1st, all the street people (dealers, hookers, hangers-on, mentally disturbed people) have just vanished!

I have passed by a couple of times in the mid-evening, and spent an hour late Saturday afternoon in the Starbucks on Madison. The formerly packed sidewalk outside the bar, and the areas around Deano's Grocery Store remained totally deserted. On Saturday evening I drove all over the Central Area, but saw no crowds, or any of the Madison Street "regulars" anywhere.

A question for you! Has the lack of the Madison Street regulars resulted in fewer problems in other parts of the neighborhood? Please keep an eye out, and send my your observations, via E-mail, via the MPNA report form, or [easiest] by a comment on this post (anonymously if you wish). Let me know what's changed in yor part of the neighborhood.

What should we do? Enjoy our new abilities to walk to the Twilight Exit and Bottleneck Lounge bars on Madison without any problems. Walk to the Madison Street Safeway, drop by the Starbucks, just get into the habit of using our streets.

Two final observations:

1) people seem to be instinctively avoiding walking on the formerly very crowded sidewalks outside the Market and bar. They're our sidewalks too, let's use them.

2) the Saturday night street preacher is still there!

Reminder: please share your observations on this sudden change in our neighborhood.



Anonymous said...

I was at the Twilight Exit until ~9:30 last night (Saturday March 3rd) and there were no loiterers or other activity in front of Chocolate City or Deano's.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, what a difference in the feel of our neighborhood! I thought I was lost on Friday night when I came home to no crowds of sketchy people hanging out up and down this area of Madison.
Also, there was actually parking outside my home (on 22nd Ave E) near Madison for a change (many weekends there would be people hanging out in there cars doing deals, etc. One recent evening I came home, parked on the street and two men approached my vehicle. One of the men approached the driver side, while the other actually opened the passenger door and stuck his head in... scary!
At any rate, I cannot say how greatful I am to all the people who help get Chocolate City shutdown. I feel so much more at ease in my own neighborhood... what a nice change!!!

Anonymous said...

Though it may be too soon to call it a fait accompli, the instantaneous change is quite extraordinary! I only hope CCC's former "patrons" don't adopt the Twilight or Bottleneck as their next hangout. (A neighbor predicts Thompson's Point of View as the likely candidate. Let's hope he's wrong.)

I work at Safeway, and the panhandlers who'd dump fistfuls of change on the checkstands, demanding bills in return, have disappeared, as have most of those who'd come in to buy single cans of beer two, three, or more times each day.

My next wish for this area is that the city eliminate "Lake Denny," the section of street in front of Madison Inn and Courtesy Tire that floods every time it rains.

For now, though, let's all enjoy the new peace and tranquility of our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I live slightly outside the area that was so heavily affected by Deano's, but what I have seen--I think--on Friday night and on Sunday morning--are drug deals at the intersection of 24th and Olive.

I'm a relatively new transplant from the suburbs, so it took me a couple observations to catch on to the mo of these guys: hanging around the corner, cell phone to ear (guiding customers in?), car drives up, guy goes up to car, leans in for awhile, car drives off, guy with cell phone walks off.

I haven't seen this happening before--maybe I've just missed it--but I'm wondering if the closure of Deano's hasn't pushed the dealers to different sites. I had heard from neighbors that this intersection used to be known of a drug dealing intersection.

Now that I'm aware of what's going on I will call 911 immediately when I see this kind of activity. It seems to happen only when the YMCA is closed.

I'm also going to call Sonya Richter, the East Precinct Crime Prevention Officer and alert her to what I've seen. We've had some break-ins recently in our area, so we are all hyper-alert anyway.

Anonymous said...

I live less than a block from deano's and chocolate city, and I agree that the magnitude of the change on the street scene has been far beyond what anyone expected. The huddles on the sidewalk in front of chocolate city are utterly gone (as is a lot of the traffic in and around deano's), even on the normal peak times on Friday and Saturday night. Instead of them moving across the street or into the alley or up the sidewalk, they are just GONE. There are still a few straggling transients who haven't quite figured out that there is not much opportunity left to score a hit around here, but they are now in ones or twos, and at least seem to generally be meandering around the street rather than planted at one location working for a dealer. It is really amazing, the effect this seems to have had. It's so nice to live in a regular neighborhood again!

Where have they gone? I'm sure some of them have moved to other "hotspots", but even that is progress. When you let a problem fester in one area, that becomes known as a place to score drugs or whatever else, it makes it ten times worse.

I agree we should start using the sidewalks on that side of the street again!

Anonymous said...

I was at the Twilight until about 11:30 PM last night and observed only a few random loiterers on the south side of Madison. I then walked down to the Bottle Neck Lounge without seeing any folks hanging out. It was around 2 AM when I walked back up Madison on the north side, past Deano's and Chocolate City, without seeing any loiterers. I felt much safer walking on our sidewalks.
As for the comment about a man opening his/her car door, this happened to my sister a month ago when she was pickup me up (20th and Denny). Thus far I have not seen the foot-traffic like before.

Anonymous said...

I live in a building which shares the alley behind Deano's, and I would like to say that although many people are so thrilled to see that they can now walk to the Twilight without having to see people on the streets, I do not support the removal of a crowd of people just because a few of you are "uncomfortable" around "transients and loiterers"!!
Mow down the buildings and you don't have to see people with drug addiction, but did you really get rid of the problem? NO. These individuals with substance abuse problems have now moved to a different area, and while the financially stable Twilight Exit/Bottleneck crowds might feel more "comfortable", the problem was simply brushed under the rug. How many times are we going to shuffle people who are addicted to drugs and living in poverty out of a neighborhood rather then try to address the true problems. I don't want these historic businesses to be bullied out just because the crowds appear "sketchy". I have lived here for two years without a single encounter that wasn't totally polite and friendly, and I DO take that sidewalk and that alley after dark.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that in front of Chocolate city, you all call them "street people" and in front of a bar like the War Room or Havana or Neumo's they are just part of the nightlife. If I am standing outside a bar on Pine and Broadway for example, I am sure you would not call me a street person just because I was out at a bar and standing on the sidewalk. I can't believe how judgmental everyone is being about people, devaluing their status as a human and calling them instead names like transient and street person. Do you honestly believe that no one who goes for a drink at Chocolate City has a home, a life, a family that is anything like yours? get a clue.

Anonymous said...

anoymous at 5:21 typed:
Do you honestly believe that no one who goes for a drink at Chocolate City has a home, a life, a family that is anything like yours? get a clue.
Do you honestly believe that the the dude with the eyeballs spinning round in his head spluttering, "Hey man, hey man, hey man, hey, hey, hey man," wasn't a crackhead? Do you honestly want to live in a neighborhood where crack and beaver are openly sold and consumed (the crack, anyway) on the sidewalk? And you're telling other people to get a clue? Get real. People don't want crime in their neighborhoods. You have a problem with that? I want the criminals out of the White House, and I want them out of my neighborhood. No contradiction there, just an adult evaluation of the lay of the land.

Andrew Taylor said...

Dear anoymous at 5:21:

Why is it that in front of Chocolate city, you all call them "street people"

What collective noun would you use? Most of the people constantly on the sidewalk seemed to rarely enter the bar, and the same people were out there on the sidewalk day after day. One day the first SEVEN people I met on my way down the sidewalk ALL offered me drugs!

I can't believe how judgmental everyone is being about people, devaluing their status as a human and calling them instead names like transient and street person.

Recall that Lt. Hayes's GOTS ("Get off the streets") outreach program was out, on that block, every week for the last year or more, trying to offer outreach services to the people out there on the street. Many of them just didn't seem to want to be helped. I suspect that they were stuck in a cycle of behavior from which they could not escape, and the closure of the bar may have broken that cycle (and the GOTS program will still be there to help them).

Also recall, by the way, that ALL the authorities did was to get the Club to give up its liquor license. Nobody did anything to move on the people hanging about on the street. The fact that all the people on the street promptly departed when the bar closed pretty much implies that there was some strong connection between activities in the bar and activities (drug dealing etc) on the street.

I do sympathize with the plight of the people on the street, but I also appreciate that illegal drug dealing tends to lead to violence, and so (for our own safety: witness the gunfire on the streets) we must do what we can to curtail it, while we do what we can to reach out to the people on the streets. A good friend of my son was rendered quadriplegic by a stray bullet. Enough said.


Anonymous said...

Hello, and thanks for your response: '"Do you honestly believe that the the dude with the eyeballs spinning round in his head spluttering, "Hey man, hey man, hey man, hey, hey, hey man," wasn't a crackhead?"'

YES! That's my point exactly. The minute I moved into this neighborhood I received warnings and wrinkled- nosed comments about "Crackheads", even jokes and smug stories about shooting "crackheads" with water guns etc., and I honestly believe that everyone regardless of drug use deserves to be referred to as a person, maybe it is a person with an addiction to a drug, but still a person. I work very hard in the field of social services, and I happen to believe that people are STILL people even when they are high as a kite on the corner. It's a very sad situation, but it doesn't anger me at those individuals, it motivates me to problem SOLVE, not problem HIDE.

My little sister tried to commit suicide last night by taking an entire bottle of aspirin and 4 Oxycontin. Are you going to call her a "suicidal maniac" or a "druggie" now for the rest of her life? I'm sure not going to. She's still my sister, and I still respect her, but I am very concerned and worried for her.

You want a collective term? How about "the people who hang out on the sidewalk". There's no need to be mean. It is no different than calling a person with a disability a 'retard'. And I am not trying to argue about terminology all day but seriously those words give off an impression of a dangerous lack in sympathy or empathy, which doesn't help the situation at all.

This is your community, and these are your neighbors. Is it so hard to view people who are struggling with poverty, drug addictions, and mental illnesses as PEOPLE and refer to them with a little bit of dignity and respect? Try it sometime.

Andrew Taylor said...

You want a collective term? How about "the people who hang out on the sidewalk"

Google "street people" (try it) and it would seem that it is a preferred term for people working with or documenting this population. The top hit was " - The Online Home For The Homeless". Third hit was the "Arlington Street People's Assistance Network". I chose it as a short, descriptive and non-judgmental term.


Anonymous said...

If I am standing outside a bar on Pine and Broadway for example, I am sure you would not call me a street person just because I was out at a bar and standing on the sidewalk.

If you were staring into or trying to flag down every car that drove by, bouncing around like you were on meth, or huddling up and passing things back and forth with people walking up to you on the sidewalk, I just might. If you think that the only difference between the crowd outside Neumo's and the crowd that was outside Chocolate City was the skin color, then you're the racist one.

Journalist Charles Mudede, both a black man and a professional observer (as a journalist) described this section of the sidewalk as follows (note this was written when Twilight Exit was on the Chocolate City side of the street, and Chocolate City was called "Deano's Cafe and Lounge", though still under same ownership):

The dead parking lot separates the Twilight Exit, a bar that services the Capitol Hill hipster crowd, and a two-story apartment building that has no name, no number, and appears to have no residents. Its arched entrance never seems to be used for the purposes of exiting and entering, but instead for smoking or injecting cheap drugs.

Often, a crack zombie searching for the apartment building's entrance will stumble into the Twilight Exit looking like something out of the deep past walking into the distant future. After a moment of pure amazement, the zombie realizes that he or she is in the wrong place and time, and stumbles back out in search of, one supposes, the nameless apartment building that has Deano's Cafe and Lounge on its east side. Deano's is covered with red signs that say "No Loitering." The order is universally ignored. On the 2000 block of East Madison Street, loiterers crowd the sidewalk like so many birds crowding a telephone wire.

Enough said about that.

How many times are we going to shuffle people who are addicted to drugs and living in poverty out of a neighborhood rather then try to address the true problems.

I take it you were out there offering outreach to these people and addressing their true problems? I sincerely doubt it -- if so, you would have seen the intractability of the problem. As Andrew says, the fact that this crowd essentially disappeared the same day that Chocolate City's doors were shuttered makes it very hard to believe that there was not a strong connection between the two. Dispersing the problem has the following effects:

1.) People who come from far away just for this particular scene and its illegal fruits no longer come to the neighborhood -- this was a much larger part of the problem than a lot of people are aware of.

2.) Addicts go to other places to get their fix, but they don't all travel as a single pack. They are broken up and dispersed, meaning no one location has to bear that full burden. This is a good thing.

3.) Drug dealers are forced into unfamiliar territories, rather than entrenching themselves and establishing patterns and protections in one location.

4.) At least a few of the addicts or dealers, as Andrew mentions, may get jolted out of the world and cycle that they are stuck in. This too, is a good thing.

So, in summary, no, they are not just getting shuffled from one neighborhood to the next for the convenience of rich racist white folks. It's a convenient theory, though, for someone who is just looking for something to complain about. Now you're going to have to move again, so that you can find another "edgy" place to live that makes you feel hip.

It is indeed magical that you never got harassed walking through the alleyway. I've had people trying to sell me drugs from 30 yards away. Maybe you're just more respectable-looking. I'm also guessing you weren't walking by Chocolate City when that guy got shot in the head in the parking lot a year or two ago. That would have sucked.

Anonymous said...

As a lifelong resident of Capitol Hill and one who had, what some may describe as coming from "very unfortunate circumstances", and one who has struggled with multiple addictions and varying stages of recovery. I would like to make some observations of what I have witnessed in the four years I have lived in Miller Park.
The approach I have witnessed by this community HAS been compassionate towards those who are strung out, there has been understanding of the individuals, more than most communities,until the boundaries of unlawful behavior have been crossed repeatedly, or residents' and everones'personal safety or property has actually been threated or worse.
I know firsthand what happens when an addict is displaced from a hot spot,it's a window of opportunity to look at the options and make a decision to change.
The loss of Chocolate Citys' license and shake up of the the lives of folks that gathered there may or may not provide that window for many, but it may bring one or two closer the social services they need.
In the meantime, I,for one,feel a sense of relief, and even though I witness people using as they walk past my house, there is a hope that they might see themselves as they could be, removed from the false sense of security and identification of that block.
My observation is that this is a community of inclusion, as witnessed by the support of the victims of the shooting on Republican and 22nd, the work in the Community Center and efforts of my immediate neighbors to reach out and acknowledge EVERYONE who walks down my street, as I have when I walked through the foks in front of Deanos' and Chocolate City we look each other in the eye and made a nod or acknowlegement, when I felt strong enough about myself.
I hope whatever happens in community in the future will be met with similar thouhtfulness.

Andrew Taylor said...

Comment received by E-mail and posted with permission:

Things are certainly different.

Friday, Mar 2, mid day we had a visitor in our sitting area trying to light up his crack pipe, he was asked to leave. I saw a few people mid day around CCC entrance, one maybe lighting up in the alcove. Friday afternoon, around 5, there were still quite a few of the usual crowd. The police presents was pretty high right then with one squad car cruising around the area. I saw a two groups of people yelling at each other about 10 minutes apart, more than usual animosity I felt. I wondered if drug supplies had vanished and people were needing their fixes. They all seemed disoriented and not that usual chummy style of huddling around CCC entrance. I stopped by Saturday AM and again 3 or 4 times on Sunday and there was absolutely none of the regulars present. Mon AM there was a little suspicious behavior betewwen people in a couple of cars in the Deanos parking area. Hurrah!

Is there any chance the club will stay closed? Is there anything we can do right now to help it stay closed?

Anonymous said...

I can tell you where some of the drug dealers are now hanging out. On any given day, there are usually 2 or 3 that hang out around the Taco Time on 15th and Madison. I've seen folks sitting in cars in the AME Church parking lot - shooting up drugs. And, if you're ever downtown around 3rd and Pine/Pike there are numerous drug deals happening even with the stepped-up police presence. Open drug dealing is a fact of life nowadays and it's only taken about 25 years to clean up the area around Deano's. Drug users know where to find their drugs of choice, now it's a little harder at 23rd and Madison. People, get over the outrage of folks hanging out on streets that don't look or act like you.

Anonymous said...

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