BLOG: Does the Town of Bel Air Have a Homeless Problem?

On my way to work, I noticed a homeless gentlemen washing his clothes in the town fountain, then he proceeded to lay his clothes out on the court house steps to let them dry.

I don't know if it is at the problem stage yet but it sure is a nuisance when . Just the other week when I was headed down Main Street, on my way to work, I noticed a homeless gentlemen washing his clothes in the , then he proceeded to lay his clothes out on the court house steps to let them dry.

Later that day the same man stumbled into the coffee shop to get a cup of ice for his drink. He then proceeded to sit out front with another local homeless man and smoke cigarettes that they picked up out of the trash can.

I asked them to move along because they were scaring away customers and after a brief argument they finally left. The problem is this has turned into an everyday event and God help us when it gets cold.

I am not a heartless person and in some ways I truly feel bad for these people, but it is not good for my business, let alone any other business along Main Street. Hopefully the powers to be will look to correct this before it becomes a major problem.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Wendy Willard September 19, 2011 at 05:50 PM
I highly recommend the book "Same Kind of Different As Me" if you are at all interested in this issue. The author went to live on the streets of DC and several other US cities, to learn more about the homeless. The book chronicles his experiences. It was a hugely eye-opening book for my middle-class suburban self...
Eric bel air September 19, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Doesn't Gus's down the street give away free coffee before a certain time?
Ian Mitchell September 19, 2011 at 07:28 PM
I never said I didn't feel bad for the homeless. I was just stating that it is difficult to run a buisness when they are around. I also forgot to say that one is a registered sex offender,(raped a minor) and the other is usually intoxicated to the point of falling down! Not what I want around my buisness nor do I think anyone would want around their home.
Jill Bracewell September 19, 2011 at 07:37 PM
I also have homeless people living in the woods by my house. I posted a blog about this problem 2 weeks ago, and got some great feedback. The best comment I got though was from a wife of a State Trooper who pointed out the fact that until they want help, there is nothing we can do for them. As far as loitering in front of your business, I was told the only thing you can do is have an officer respond to your location and ask them to move along. I would also make security at the court house aware of them on the front steps. Take pictures and send them to your local congressman. If the drunk person becomes too much, have them removed. There are a ton of resources in the county for them, but again, if they do not want the help, there is nothing anyone can do. So, be kind, offer a cup of coffee, extra blankets, a kind word and pray that if these people are "Angels on Earth" that you have not offended them in some way. That would be really bad for your business.
A. Bunker September 19, 2011 at 09:14 PM
God help those who are judging these individuals that are homeless!! We NEVER know when it could be us!! Be thankful that you have a home a business and an income! BE part of the solution! God help you when you do not offer them a warm cup of coffee and crumbs in your bin when they are hungry and cold now and this winter! Read the bible about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked,,,,,"What you do for the least of my brother that you do to me" make sure they werent sent to your street for a reason, maybe to open your eyes to the needing people in our society. I was disabled for 1 year and if it wasnt for the small disability policy and some Christian and good hearted people thathelped or I and my children could have been THOSE people coming into your business or washing my clothes in inappropriate places! So unfortunately you just lost my business and I will make sure that my friends do not patronize your business for your cold heartedness towards the needs of others
Holly September 19, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Poor business poor fool!!!
Eric bel air September 19, 2011 at 10:12 PM
I'm sorry I respectfully disagree. How would you feel if these homeless people start camping out infront of your house on the street? Or knocking on your door for leftovers or to use your washing machine? Are you going to be as welcoming? Why should Ian and the other business owners have to put up with this element that will drive paying customers away? He owns a business, not a soup kitchen. What do you propose being part of the solution is? Give them more free stuff? Ever hear of "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." No wonder they have no incentive to work, why do that if they need medical help, walk down 24 and go to the hospital (no wonder there's tents behind the woods of Home Depot)- they can't be turned away, meanwhile everyone else has to pay the bill. As stated earlier there ARE plenty of programs and help available, many, if not most chose to do nothing about it!
Marycarol Skaggs September 19, 2011 at 11:07 PM
I was that welcoming, and I did invite a young woman into my home to do laundry. If they were camped out on my front porch, I would seek the resources for them to find help. I certainly wouldn't refer to them as a problem for the powers to be to solve.
Patrick BA September 20, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I understand the point Ian is making. He is a small business owner trying to support his family and so on. We ask that he not judge the homeless, yet some are judging him? It seems to me, he is here asking for assistance and advice from his community and some are condemning him for his honesty. I don't think anyone here wants to see someone homeless for the obvious reasons, however that doesn't mean Ian should endure homeless in front of his business either. This is a delicate issue from all ends that needs to be addressed by our community and more importantly our elected officials.
Marycarol Skaggs September 20, 2011 at 10:04 AM
Dear ones--that Summit is tonight at Mt. Zion UMC on 22. I hope you go!! Don't be stymied, be equipped.
Kai September 20, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Oh to be able to offer him a job. He could wash dishes in the back until he could afford clothes and a home again. Let them know you have a no drinking and no smoking policy; so, encourage them to resolve those issues in their lives and come work for you. A job is waiting. A better future exists. With sinscerity, encourage them to seize the opportunity. (Just an idea)
Gina September 20, 2011 at 05:04 PM
I've lived in Bel Air all of my life (until 4 years ago) and my family has lived there for almost 60 years. Please stop pretending that Bel Air is too good for hardship. Look around...many of your neighbors who tried desperately to "keep up with the Jones' " are loosing their jobs and their homes. If I remember correctly, a homeless shelter AND a home for the mentally challenged were fought by the community. No one wanted "those people" near their homes and businesses. If THAT'S the kind of community that you work so hard to reside in, then you should be ASHAMED of yourself. As a business owner, YOU should be researching, implementing, and seeking the support of other local businesses to assist these people that you consider a "problem".
JDK September 20, 2011 at 05:33 PM
These people are homeless because they choose to be. There is a ton of resources to help them but they would rather get drunk or high then have a normal life with responsibility. That is the problem with today's society, everyone else is responsible for those who won't take responsibility for themselves. Stop looking for a hand out and work for it like the rest of us.
Eric bel air September 20, 2011 at 06:06 PM
I don't know Gina, but slamming the business owner is sure not the solution for his opinion. How do you know he's not one of those who are in hardship? He has to pay for lease/commercial mortgage, insurance, his employees and taxes (ever see how much commercial property tax is in Bel Air? not even including corporate income tax). He may also have business loans, lease or a commercial mortgage and likely a family to support. His bottom line depends on paying customers walking in and buying his products. If he goes out of business- everybody loses- him, his family, his employees, his creditors and the Town/county. Unlike the stereotype most small business owners do not just sit there and watch the dollars roll in. It's hard work and there's a high chance of failure. I'll ask this- have you owned some kind of business that your livelihood depends on? Based on this message, I would say not. It's very frustrating for a small business owner with a retail location to have homeless "camping out" infront of the store. Certainly not good for business. The point I'm trying to make is there are programs and assistance available for the homeless and raking Ian over the coals for his blog hoping he goes out of business or that he should be ashamed for his opinion is NOT the solution.
Kai September 20, 2011 at 06:44 PM
I agree with Gina. Bel Air can't evade the reality of homelessness and Businesses could come together with greater solutions. It is not easy being homeless. It is a hard life. Doors are slammed in their face day after day. Counseling, clean clothes, an indoor bed, running water, electricity, socialization, rehabs, acceptance back into the work force, a second and third chance, bill payments, debt consilidations, even getting identification again doesn't nearly sum up what faces a homeless person trying to get back on their feet. Where is the understanding? Even the homeless who 'choose to be' are only fallen victim of hard times and after long battles, they've lost hope. They realize the band-aid offered will land them right back on the street.
Brenda September 20, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Eric, Your message on here really bothered me. WHAT A SNOB YOU ARE. FYI the schools in Harford County are not that great, but you wouldn't know that since you have no children. I work everyday just like you. I still am willing to help the less fortunate. I pray to god that no one in your cozy little world ever falls on hard times. How dare you judge these people. I hope you are right with God because one day you will have to answer for the attitude you have.I have been in Belair and walked past these men. Not once did they bother me. Not once did they ask me for money or anything else. Wjhy not attend the open house and do something about the problem instead of just giving lip service. My grand children live with me and when I tried to enroll my grand son in Pre-K guess what I was told. I make too much money thoes spots are reserved for the poor kids. Well its my taxes that pay for that program. Know what I did Eric, I wrote the school borad. I didn't go online like a blow hard and put others down...
Brenda September 20, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Amen well said bunker.....
Kai September 20, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Homelessness has really stirred a discussion! I was down to one dollar to my name in California. McDonald's wouldn't hire me because I wasn't bilingual. The McDonald's also charged for water. I didn't break my dollar because if my grandfather ever asked me if I were broke, I could answer that I was not. I could never lie to him and it would have broken his heart. Maybe this store owner could charge for ice. People in Bel Air would accept it as a part of being upper class. And the homeless would stop hanging around that store.
Eric bel air September 20, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Brenda, from your post you're the one who is the "blow hard who got online to put others (in this case me) down" calling me a snob. I voice my opinion- which I am entitled to and it obviously ruffles your feathers. Last I checked, this is a free country. According to you, I am not free to judge others and form my own opinion based on my beliefs and personal experiences? Instead I am chastised to the tune of "how dare" I do something in the name of God? That's some great religion you have there, where can I sign up! Call me what you like but you obviously know nothing about me. I sure do know the schools here, I grew up in this county! I work hard to live where I do, and live the lifestyle I do. Believe it or not, I used to give to the poor, I work in Baltimore City and get asked for money on almost a daily basis. Do I want to deal with this when I'm home to Bel Air? NO! Not only that, one guy I gave money to, I found him a few days later at the liquor store! I've voice my opinion already- these people need to GET A JOB and stop relying on everyone else, and loitering infront of business looking for a hand out. Since you're so gun-ho on saving the world, let's hear what YOU do to correct this problem.
John Citzen September 20, 2011 at 09:55 PM
All right gonna have to jump into this land of judgement damned if you damned if you don't. The Homeless (people without homes d/t hard times $$ lack of funds d/t being outsourced, or business closed now living in their cars) God Bless them and they should get the assistance they need. Now What we see Mental Health patients refusing treatment selling their meds for the next high (Don't think this doesn't happen in fact some of the med bought by the rich to expirement with) the mental patient spitting at the doctors and hospitals trying to help them. The person who decided one afternoon to shoot drugs in themselves over and over to check out instead of getting needed help not their souls have blackened to walking dead. The violent and the cons artist out there who refuses to be contained and follow the laws of organized society by threating behaviors, lotiering and becoming a nusiance. The Lord also helps thoese who help themselves. You have to want to overcome not con your way out. Not all homeless are "angels on earth" and the gravy train should come with reservations and not a free ride.
Gina September 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Actually Eric, my husband and I HAVE owned a small business that we depended to support our family. I think you're missing the point. Let me break it down for you: Ian made a statement that he hoped "the powers that be" would jump in and solve this "problem". I did not disagree with the presence of the homeless at his establishment negatively effecting his business. My message was instead of him hoping it would go away or be handled by someone else, he and other local business owner should become part of the solution. ASSISTING those in need. Businesses should GIVE BACK to the community. Eric, YOU made the following statements, " I work hard in order to live in Bel Air/Harf County for the quality of life- as in- relatively low crime, good schools (even though I don't have kids) and non-run down areas. Granted we're not Beverly Hills but there aren't many places in Bel Air that looks like a dump. Even the older areas look well maintained. As soon as we're infiltrated by the homeless, it's going downhill. My hard earned tax dollars are already going to the county/state to support these people." You need to wake up friend.
Gina September 21, 2011 at 12:46 PM
BTW...Kai, great minds think alike. Maybe it's time the the community get together and ask the local businesses, how they are giving back to the community. If you are too good to give back to the community in which you live and do business, then you don't deserve that community's patronage.
Eric bel air September 21, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Gina, you've made your point and you're certainly welcome to your view point. I agree with you the Powers statement was a little reckless but you also don't know the specific situation. Many of these homeless wind up breaking into places or stealing. A house I looked at buying, had a homeless person living inside. How do you know they're not defecating on his storefront? As for the last part, what part of my statement is not true? If the homeless start taking over town, does that not give Bel Air, or any community a trashy quality to it? A quality that most who live here do not want? Is it not true our tax dollars already go to support the less fortunate? Why do you think a hospital visit costs so much- one ride in an ambulance can be $1000 easy. It's because we're subsidizing those who can't pay. Please enlighten me what part of my statement is ignorant. At the risk of sounding selfish, I, and I'm sure many others are sick of the freeloaders. I live in a small and old house and drive a 13 year old car with almost 200k so I'm not rich by any imagination. But I live within my means, because I've seen what happens when someone is financially irresponsible and overextends themselves, then take a bailout that you and I pay for. If I walk into a store, can I expect to receive something for free because I say I can't afford it? Where's my bailout and community help?
Gina September 21, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Eric, I may not agree with your opinion, but that doesn't mean it is incorrect. I don't believe feelings and opinions can be incorrect. They may be, what I consider to be, morally wrong, or based off of information that is skewed. I addressed the thousands of over extended people in my first comment. I also dislike people feeling that they can have their cake and eat it too, on my dollar. That's what a large portion of Bel Air is. People pretending that they are of a high economic standing than they really are, that they are better than everyone, and deserve the royal treatment. In reality, those are the same people that struggle month to month and "rob Peter to pay Paul". You'd be suprised at the amount of people in Bel Air are on public assistance of some sort. Bel Air hides it well, that's all. The amount of drugs swirling around in CMW and Bel Air high is astounding. We didn't have police in the lobby M-F when I was there in the 90's. Those are the people who are growing up and becoming active members of the Bel Air community. What do people think that means? Take a look at the local halfway house, the HCDC rooster, and those people washing their clothes in the town fountain. My whole point is that the pedastool that some "Bel Airians" are on needs to be kicked out from underneath them. Help find a solution and help people to help themselves....not just hope that they will go away because they are ruining our image.
Eric bel air September 21, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Gina, I never said your view point is incorrect. You are probably around the same age I am. I also attended the local area schools in the 90s, I was there when the "community officer" program was first introduced, and yes, I'm quite aware of the drugs. We had drug sniffing dogs from the sheriff's office sweep the halls a few times a year. Some of my peers have even died from ODing, one within the last 3 months, but not everybody was into that kind of stuff. Academically Bel Air, CMW, Fallston etc do pretty well. I'm not pretending Bel Air is a haven, but I stand by my comment we don't need homeless overrunning the town. They have options and programs available which many chose to do nothing about. To me, the underlying problem is many of these people simply do nothing about their homelessness. One of my friends is a sheriff's deputy, and he's had to deal with them head on. Try to persuade them into the shelter, but the truth is many of them chose to be the way they are- freeloading off the community. When I found myself short of cash- I didn't rack up the credit card, or start begging, I got a second job and started doing sidework. Let's not act like these people don't have resources available to them, many do nothing about it.
Gina September 21, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Eric, I know you weren't saying that I was incorrect. I think we can just agree to disagree. I truelly hope that one day you, or someone you care about, doesn't find themselves in the shoes of the less fortunate that we are speaking of.
Ian Mitchell September 23, 2011 at 01:56 PM
AMEN John! As a buisness owner I give plenty back to the community and registered sex offenders and drunks are not who I choose to give to.
Eric bel air September 26, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Angels on Earth huh? How about this homeless guy who is "alleged" to have kidnapped a 5 year old from Carsins Run sports complex? http://belair.patch.com/articles/alleged-carsins-run-kidnapper-arrested P.S. I'm still awaiting a reply from Brenda who took offense to my original comment...
RW Willy September 27, 2011 at 02:47 AM
The local business owner is not obligated to GIVE back anything. He put his money and time on the line to run a business. If they want to do something, buying rec uniforms or supporting a school PTA or boosters is fine. Giving a bum a coffee or a blanket is not solving the problem. But if it makes you feel better then go ahead. I equate free food and handouts to the homeless like feeding stray cats. Once you start they just never go away.
Kai September 27, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Mathew 25:37-40 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' "The king will answer them, 'I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for Me.'


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