Letter: A problem in Chestnut Hill’s backyard

Posted 4/14/22

A friend and I were walking our dogs in the Cherokee Apartments on Wolcott Drive in Chestnut Hill when a homeless man who lives in the woods next to the apartments ran towards us brandishing a glass bottle, shouting.

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Letter: A problem in Chestnut Hill’s backyard

Posted

I have lived in Chestnut Hill for 35 wonderful years, filled with beautiful walks with my dogs. But on April 8, 2022, that changed. 

A friend and I were walking our dogs in the Cherokee Apartments on Wolcott Drive in Chestnut Hill when a homeless man who lives in the woods next to the apartments ran towards us brandishing a glass bottle, shouting.

“Bitch, I’ll smash the bottle in your face,” he threatened, saying he knew where we lived. He would get us, he said, and kill us. 

I turned to get away. He followed, shouted, and moved closer while I dragged my dog around the corner towards Cherokee Street and called the police. They came immediately and handled the situation including my stress and tears like the pros they are. 

When I ran, my friend stayed behind to try and reason with him. The last thing I heard her say was “When you talk to people this way….” He shouted over her and continued ranting and raving.

I had seen this man one time before, when walking my dog on Valley Green Road. He was bathing in the creek shouting words that could not be deciphered. Keeping it light, and anxious to get away, I said, “looks like you are having fun.” He turned, stared, and went back to ranting.

I later learned he is a homeless man who, for over a year, has lived in the woods across the street from the Cherokee Apartments. He bathes in the creek. I heard he uses the laundromat in the Cherokee Apartments to wash his clothing.

There was no physical assault so I couldn’t file charges. If I pressed charges he would be released and return to his place in the woods, and I would feel doubly unsafe. If he went to jail, he might sober up - as I later learned that he is worse when he drinks. 

The police said his bark is worse than his bite, and that he has not yet assaulted anyone. 

I was the victim of his venomous “bite” and it left me terrified. Twenty-four hours after this verbal assault I am better from the post-traumatic stress reactions I experienced.

He is a violent drunk and a loose cannon. Anything can happen with a loose cannon; it can explode and kill someone.

If you live in Philadelphia, you know that violent crimes are setting new records. The rate of nonviolent crimes is 27 times higher in the homeless population. I’m writing this piece to bring attention to this growing problem. 

We all know about it, but we don’t talk about it. If we ignore it, it will get worse. If we address it, it could get better. It requires intention, focus, and money and most importantly taking our heads out of the sand and looking at a problem that is in our own backyard.

Ruth Hoskins, Ph.D., HHS, LCSW

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