What to do about Yelling Guy
February 22, 2021 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Who can I safely reach out to to make contact with Angry Yelling Guy in my NYC neighborhood?

I live in a reasonably sleepy New York neighborhood. In the last couple weeks, there is a new fella who I call Angry Yelling Guy who makes an appearance at all hours of the day and night, yelling incredibly loudly at no one in particular, sometimes pacing back and forth on my block for hours. We all know That Guy, and most of the time, as a seasoned New Yorker, I can ignore and wait for them to move on. But this guy seems to be sticking around and he's starting to really disrupt both my work and sleep. I don't know anything about him--I don't know if he lives nearby or if he's homeless or what and I don't want to assume drug use or mental health issues, but I would really like to be able to sleep and work again. (White noise and earplugs kind of help at night, but those are not options when I'm on video work calls all day long).

This guy is a middle-aged Black man, so I WILL NOT under any circumstances call the police on him. He is not threatening or causing harm to anyone, nor do I think he is at risk of harming himself either. But who can I safely contact to reach out to him to see if he needs services and, ideally, have him quiet down a little?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure he’s not simply talking on his phone through AirPods or such? Maybe he has some kind of business?
posted by Seeking Direction at 2:31 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

If he is talking to himself, and you don't feel comfortable approaching him and asking him to quiet down, maybe mental health outreach services could help.

NYC has mobile mental health crisis teams.
posted by zdravo at 2:33 PM on February 22 [20 favorites]

Could you and a friend approach him semi-anonymously and say "hey! is everything okay? It sounded like you were yelling!" "My friend lives here and could hear you last night, do you think you could keep it down?" with some cookies or something. Cookies make everything better.
posted by bbqturtle at 2:35 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

If it were me, I might actually be inclined to go try to talk to him myself. Maybe offer him some change for coffee or something?
posted by aecorwin at 2:36 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

What is he yelling? Wordless rage, curses, anecdotes about his day, recipes? I honestly think the type of content is useful information in determining who might be able to help you/him.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:36 PM on February 22 [18 favorites]

How about approaching him yourself first? That way you can get an idea of what the story is and if he does indeed need any help you can have a better idea of what kind of services to get involved, IF any. Without a little bit of info you could gain from a chat with him it's not really possible to think of getting some sort of organisation involved and for what purpose. Are you afraid to approach him? You said he's not threatening. Why not try a direct friendly neighbourly approach?
posted by bitteschoen at 2:44 PM on February 22

You might contact NYC Well to see what they recommend.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:14 PM on February 22 [6 favorites]

Please be safe. I second contacting NYC Well or others for advice in lieu of approaching the person. I sure as hell would not approach a white man or a woman of any color or any person of any color or a Black man to ask them why they are angry and shouting in my neighborhood. Totally agree about not calling the police. Everyone has their own ideas about what is safe and comfortable for them so certainly don't do anything you aren't comfortable with.
posted by RoadScholar at 4:14 PM on February 22 [22 favorites]

For reasons I won't go into, I have had to ask for help in a similar situation - or, rather, I got a friend to make that call for me. Said friend is a social worker and told me later that the way he made sure we got the right help was to say that he was calling about "an emotionally disturbed person". He said that ensured that the police and EMTs who responded had had experience with a situation like this, and would handle things appropriately.

NYC Well is probably your best resource, in general, but if (god forbid) things somehow escalate and you're forced into a "whoa shit someone should probably call 911" kind of scenario, those are the words to use.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 PM on February 22 [7 favorites]

Look, I agree do not call the cops but someone who is *angrily yelling* at no one in particular at all hours of the night and day, outside, is not well. They are not responsible for their actions and should not approached like a neighbor loudly playing a TV upstairs. They are probably hallucinating. They need mental health services.
posted by nantucket at 4:20 PM on February 22 [62 favorites]

Yeah, please don’t approach him yourself with peace offerings of money or cookies! He is clearly not well, in a way that you are probably not qualified or equipped to handle. If you need it to be about his health and safety, well, we are still in a pandemic; exposure could go either way if you hung around long enough to “hear his story.”

The Well helpline suggested above seems like your best bet.
posted by armeowda at 5:15 PM on February 22 [12 favorites]

Do you have a neighborhood community center of some sort? When I moved into my neighborhood here in SF, it didn't take long for our "yelling guy" to make himself known. He never made me feel unsafe, but he crossed lines that made me feel wary for my kids. This guy was sort of like a volunteer preacher, whose screamed screeds were about one thing and only one thing: homosexuals are tainted with some, will burn in a lake of fire, should be outed and fired and shunned and embarrassed to let them understand god's love, on and on. He saw me and my dude (gay men) kiss on the sidewalk one day, waiting at a crosswalk with our kids, and went (vocally) nuts. He would recognize our kids on their own thereafter and point them out as the children of sodomites to passersby. I had to do everything I could think of to avoid him for fear of doing something stupid. One day, I was seething about him with another neighbor, and just happened to be standing in front of the open door to our neighborhood center. A woman inside heard me and came out to do damage control. He's a local, he has established mental health issues, his parents are elderly and can't keep an eye on him like they used to, people call the police (pointlessly) all the time, or worse get in fights with him. If he's a problem, she said, come let us know where he is and we'll call his parents and send another neighborhood old timer to corral him back home. She asked me to bring my kids by so she could explain all this to them, too, which was very kind. She also gave my youngest a coloring book page while we were all talking, and that drawing (which is now almost ten years old) became a family legend/touchstone that I recently took off the fridge so I could properly preserve and frame it.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:42 PM on February 22 [45 favorites]

THANK YOU for not calling the cops on him!!!!
100% the right choice.

I had an angry yelling woman on my downtown street a few years ago, experiencing some kind of late night moment of chemical imbalance.

I went down with a couple of juice boxes and a subway fare token, and said “Hi, are you ok? You sound upset, I could hear you upstairs. I brought you some juice.”

She drank one super fast. We chatted and she said, “Honey, I’m sorry you saw me like this, I used to have my shit together.” I said “It’s ok, sometimes I feel like yelling too.” We laughed, I gave her the token and the rest of the juice, and off she went, never heard her screaming again.

I felt safe because she was a woman who was smaller than me; if it had been a man or someone much bigger than me I might not have approached.

When it’s been a person I didn’t feel comfortable approaching, I have yelled out the window in a friendly tone, “Are you ok? .... My baby is sleeping, may I ask you to use a quiet voice?” That has also worked. (The baby was fictional)

But honestly I find that being kind and calm and respectful with people, even if they’re in an erratic state, usually goes ok.

I took juice boxes because many substance use issues will amplify sugar cravings, and, worst case scenario a juice box can’t be broken and won’t cause major damage if thrown.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:12 PM on February 22 [17 favorites]

They need mental health services.

Unfortunately there is no way to get mental health services in NYC for someone like this that does not risk the cops showing up.

he was calling about "an emotionally disturbed person". He said that ensured that the police and EMTs who responded had had experience with a situation like this, and would handle things appropriately.

A significant portion of 911 calls are for EDP's, the people who show up may be cops who are not necessarily trained to deal with situations like this, and the NYPD kills EDP's.

Unfortunately, I would not call anyone on this man unless you or he or someone else was in danger.
posted by Mavri at 6:44 PM on February 22 [4 favorites]

What zdravo said. Your instincts to be circumspect about jumping to conclusions and call someone not the police are spot on - especially if your city has a crisis response service. They're built for this kind of thing.

To reiterate the the cautions upstream about approaching him yourself...The idea comes from a genuinely caring, humane place...but I don't think it's wise. You just don't know if a genteel, Good Samaritan type encounter will land as kindness or a threat to someone in a not-so-good mental/emotional space. The odds an untrained stranger on the street can do him any meaningful good are pretty low compared to the potential for harm by way of escalating an already unstable person to the point where calling the police is the only option.

Call in the folks that are trained in crisis de-escalation and can connect him to people better equipped to help. It's safer for you and him.
posted by space_cookie at 7:06 PM on February 22 [8 favorites]

(White noise and earplugs kind of help at night, but those are not options when I'm on video work calls all day long)

I don't have suggestions about who to call, but just in case the reason that you can't use noise-cancelling headphones (or sound-isolating earbuds like etymotics or shures) is because the noise also interferes with your video calls, there are a bunch of noise-cancelling software solutions today that might help. I've heard good things about krisp.ai.
posted by trig at 3:04 AM on February 23

For many years my youngest brother was that dude yelling on streets, loudly, often incoherent and in his own universe. He is tall and heavy, very strong physically.
No way i would have recommended a stranger to approach him to calm him or even just get him to move on. His reactions were entirely unpredictable: sometimes physically violent and other times full of pain sobbing, crying, breaking down. Neither response is easy to handle.
From this experience i strongly recommend against approaching this person.
In my brothers case police was an option that worked but only because he was wellknown in the small town he lived in with my mother.
Now he lives in a bigger town, it is difficult and encounters with police end with him being sectioned. However this is not in the US.

I think the best suggestions above are those recommendations for outreach programs in your direct neighboor hood. They might even know him.
posted by 15L06 at 11:36 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

Regarding calling the cops - if you are very concerned about a police confrontation with this person, then I would suggest that you call somebody (anybody) else, because sooner or later someone else will call the cops. We had a very similar person in my neighborhood for about six months - he would walk the alleys yelling in an angry way for no reason at all - and eventually someone called the cops after he walked past a group of small children doing this. Eventually, there were 6-8 cops on the scene who forcibly pushed the guy into an ambulance. I didn't see any overt brutality, and I think the cops were generally just trying to get him help and not get hurt, but it was a very big police response.
posted by Mid at 12:02 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]

Don't Call the Police has some options for NYC, including NYC Well as recommended by unknowncommand. Seconding asking around at any community centers, mutual aid groups, or neighborhood organizations as well.
posted by EmilyFlew at 1:33 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]

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