How do I get a homeless person(s) to stop peeing in my front doorway?
June 11, 2007 3:39 PM   Subscribe

How do I get a homeless person(s) to stop peeing in my front doorway?

My friend has a business. There's some person who, at some point during the night, pees in the building's doorway. This happens almost every night. My friend installed a bright light in the doorway that stays on all night, but that didn't stop the night urinator, so my friend installed a four-foot-tall metal gate across the front of the doorway AND added an attractive ficus tree/plant thing as well. And then the next day my friend went away on business and left me in charge. The following morning there was urine on the doorstep. Apparently the gate and ficus are no kind of deterrent whatsoever.

What can I do? Short of staying up all night, lying in wait? And supposing I did catch the person peeing in the doorway -- what would I say or do? (I'm a short, extremely non-threatening-looking woman.)
posted by tangelo to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps it's not a person.
posted by notswedish at 3:40 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bleach. There's ammonia in urine ... bleach + ammonia = bad. Or at least that's what I would do.
posted by Pleadthefifth at 3:44 PM on June 11, 2007

notswedish has a point- it might not be a person at all. It might be a really big dog. Dog urine is really, really yellow; far more yellow than human urine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:48 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Instead of a constant bright light, I would have your friend install a motion detector light and a surveillance camera.
posted by spec80 at 3:49 PM on June 11, 2007

When I was a kid living with my single mom, we had a guy who tried to break into our apartment every night. About 3 am we would hear banging and rattling, then would-be-intruder would get frustrated and leave. My mom installed a burglar alarm and it would go off but he kept coming back over the course of a couple of weeks. He always left before the cops could catch him though, which frustrated us even more.

Now this is where our stories may be able to intersect. My mom decided to hook an electric fence charger up to the door knob. So the guy showed up and grabed the knob and he got the crap shocked out of him.

I am thinking that you could wet down the doorstep area and leave a live connection to that puddle on your doorstep. He would get a hell of a shock and I doubt he would return.
posted by aburd at 3:50 PM on June 11, 2007

Maybe I am too naive, but putting up a sign doesn't help? Say this is a place of business, piss somewhere else. Please, thank you.
Although that could draw more attention from other urinators...
on a serious note, unless you want to take a drastic legal measure, not much you can do.
posted by icollectpurses at 3:53 PM on June 11, 2007

aburd's suggestion is what I would call a gilt-edged lawsuit invitation.

You could install a CCTV and recorder, so at least you would know who is pissing in the doorway; the next step would be to actually catch him, which would involve staying up late (perhaps two people, to be sure to catch him), or a Rube Goldberg mousetrap contraption (which sounds like fun in the abstract, but is unrealistic).
posted by adamrice at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2007

Our cat was doing this, so we went to Radio Shack and bought the same thing they have over their door, that goes BING BONG when someone steps in a certain area. It freaks the cat out and now he doesn't go in that area any more. The noise alone might be startle-worthy?
posted by GaelFC at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2007

Not to be an ass or negate your experience, aburd, but this sounds like an annoyance more than anything. I don't think it's worth potentially harming some poor person or animal by running an electrical current through a puddle of water. You may end up with a dead or injured person or animal on your doorstep, and then....well, that's a, uh, bigger problem, no?

I would say your friend is trapped in a battle of wills with this person(?) and, well, that's unfortunate, but really this isn't your problem beyond getting a mop, a bucket and some good industrial strength cleaner.

If your friend absolutely can't let this go, advise him or her to stay up late, see what's going on, and, if it is a person, talk to them unless they're completely insane. If it's a person, they're in a crap set of circumstances and maybe making friends with them might convince them not to pee in your friend's doorway.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

a battle of wills

well kind of
posted by criticalbill at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd lie in wait with a water gun.
posted by autojack at 4:23 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some kind of motion-activated sprinkler? That might work whether it is human or animal.
posted by amber_dale at 4:26 PM on June 11, 2007

First things first, find out what it is. If it is an animal you would take a whole different route than if it is a human.

The only thing I can think of that would get rid of either human or animal would be a motion sensor rigged up to something that sprays water. It wont hurt anyone and who or what ever it is will get the picture after a spray or two.
posted by magikker at 4:34 PM on June 11, 2007

By the way, TV's MythBusters tested electrocution via pissing on high current lines and it doesn't work because the stream breaks up into globules of urine which breaks the circuit. A person would need to be crouching and pissing at a furious pace only just above the wire for it to carry.

So you might kill a small dog but not a person.
posted by holloway at 4:42 PM on June 11, 2007

I would wait until you go to bed and leave a porno and a wrapped sandwich on the ground of the doorstep, with a note asking that he please not pee on your home doorstep. (and also a drawing of a stickman hobo peeing, with a no-no line through it, in case of illiteracy).

If anything, maybe he won't want to sully a surface anymore that might hold potential food gifts. (hmm, if this doesn't occur to him, don't clean his pee that day*, just set a sandwich directly in it before you go to bed.)

* ... or you can recreate it yourself that night!
posted by dgaicun at 4:51 PM on June 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

Install clear plastic attached to the back of the metal gate for the ricochet effect.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:02 PM on June 11, 2007 [6 favorites]

Embrace him with a hug?
posted by strangelove at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2007

uhm .... do you have a paper boy coming over in the morning?

'cause if you follow any of the nuttier suggestions in here (shocking someone ... how do they know the dude isn't a 6"7 boxer?), you might just catch the wrong guy as well.
posted by krautland at 5:36 PM on June 11, 2007

I am thinking that you could wet down the doorstep area and leave a live connection to that puddle on your doorstep. He would get a hell of a shock and I doubt he would return

without his/her lawyer.

If I were you, I'd stop worrying about stopping it, and start thinking about making cleanup convenient or unnecessary. Is there a planter nearby with a sprinkler? Add an extra nozzle that sprays the entrance, and set the timer for just before sunrise -- instant self-cleaning entranceway! Or keep a little hose outside that you can use to rinse the entranceway in the morning, and the rest of the sidewalk as well -- after all, back in the day shopkeepers used to come out and sweep their sidewalks every morning, because cities were a lot messier than they are now (what with horsepiles and whatnot.)

I guess what I'm saying is, it's just a little pee; it's mostly water, and getting all worked up over battling the person (or, arguably, animal) is a lot more trouble than it's worth. If he/she/it were damaging the building, or harassing people, I'd say otherwise, but...this is just water, you know?

Oh, and if you think it's a homeless person sleeping there every night and peeing before he/she leaves, a sprinkler set to go off in the middle of the night will take care of that as well (although hey, why not be a nice neighbor and let 'em stay?)
posted by davejay at 6:01 PM on June 11, 2007

Supposedly, LA police chief Bratton is a big proponent of the "broken windows" theory of community law enforcement, including cracking down on nuisance crimes like public urination. Have you tried a non-emergency call to the local cops?

Just assuming based on the tags.
posted by gimonca at 6:02 PM on June 11, 2007

First off figure out if it is a person or an animal, if it is the latter call animal control and have then pick up the stray if it is the former, then squirt him with a hose from a safe vantage point.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:49 PM on June 11, 2007

What about a motion-activated sprinkler? Does no harm, but might be annoying enough to deter. Saves you having to stay up all night as well.

As for everyone on here who says, oh well, it's just pee... well maybe it is, but still... yuck. I wonder how differently you'd feel if it was the front door of your home.
posted by Zinger at 7:18 PM on June 11, 2007

This was happening in the doorway of the business where I work. Four or five mornings a week, the person who opened would have to clean piss out of the entrance way. So two and a half weeks ago we put up a big sign which reads:


Surprisingly, this has taken care of our problem. We haven't had a pee incident since the sign went up (touch wood).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:01 PM on June 11, 2007

Best answer: I used to get calls at work asking me what to do in situations like this one all the time. Haven't had one in a while. I.e., a homeless person is doing X, what should I do about it? A lot of people assume that because you work in homeless services that you have butterfly nets and cages around the office. We have to explain to people that it doesn't work like that. Not that your question has that tone at all, I'm just saying that it's very common for us to get calls from people who consider the homeless on par with wild animals that need to be scooped up and removed, and relocated.

I usually ask people if what the homeless person is doing is against the law. If the answer is yes, then I encourage them to call the police just like they would on anyone else. People tend to shrink from that option. The guilt kicks in. Then I explain that if the person in question is chronically homeless they're very likely well known to the beat cops who work the area and they will know how to respond to the complaint. If it's appropriate there might be a 302 (involuntary commitment) or if intoxication is the issue the cops will usually just encourage the person to seek treatment and release them.

You didn't say where you live but if you can contact the outreach coordinator of one of your local homeless services providers and tell them where you live and that you're having a problem with a homeless person they will note it and likely send an outreach worker to talk to the person and find out what services they might need that could help them.

This, of course, presupposes that it's actually a homeless person peeing on your steps and not a drunk college kid. Having a physical description of the person you've actually witnessed will help outreach workers figure out who you're talking about. Like beat cops, if it's a chronic, they probably already know the person.
posted by The Straightener at 8:02 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

About your light -- get one of those lights that have a motion-detector attached to them -- they are proven to scare folks off more than brighter, constant lights.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:02 PM on June 11, 2007

I like the idea of some active deterrent triggered by a motion sensor. Sprinklers have been mentioned. Maybe a recording. Loud noise and flashing lights. Whatever. Something that would be useful for general security purposes (i.e. not the sprinkler) would probably be a wiser investment.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:06 PM on June 11, 2007

While I really like the motion-sensitive sprinkler idea, just on concept, a motion-sensitive light + camera + police intervention is probably going to be more effective in the long run, and avoid any nasty confrontations betweeen the night peer and the sprinkler (or your house). It'll also let you know if it's human, or some sort of animal.

And as others have suggested, the police will probably be more helpful if you can do the legwork for them (give them an idea of who it is, what time they tend to come past, etc.). If they refuse to help, then you might need to interact with the person more directly. (And by "you," I mean "some much more physically imposing person hired by your employer who understands how aggressive they can be without getting in legal trouble" -- perhaps a bouncer or security guard hired for a single evening.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:24 PM on June 11, 2007

Doesn't it seem especially strange that someone's peeing in the same well-lit, public place every night?

Granted, it may be someone who's intoxicated or mentally ill, but is it possible someone has a childish vendetta against your friend? (Regardless, the surveillance camera does seem the way to go.)
posted by kittyprecious at 9:07 PM on June 11, 2007

Supposedly, LA police chief Bratton is a big proponent of the "broken windows" theory of community law enforcement

He is. However, the LAPD is among the most understaffed police forces in the country. You are not likely to get a useful response.

Motion detector + camera to tell who or what it is. If human, then sign + motion detector + light + alarm to get rid of him.
posted by frogan at 9:08 PM on June 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses, everyone! I talked to the owner of the neighboring business and got more information: there is in fact a homeless, mentally ill guy who is peeing on my doorstep. I'm getting off easy -- he sleeps, pukes and craps on the neighbor's property. A few days ago the neighbor asked him to stop and even offered to help find him somewhere else to sleep but to no avail.

The Straightener: I'm going to take your suggestion and call a homeless service provider in the neighborhood. I have the homeless guy's name and physical description and everything. Thank you o thank you!
posted by tangelo at 10:38 PM on June 11, 2007

Another vote for Motion-activated bright light or spinkler. Sprinkler has the added benefit of rinsing the doorway. Both will work on animal or human pee-ers.

Where should a person pee in the neighborhood? Find out, then make a sign saying Don't Pee Here - Use the Park Down the Street. Extra points if you attach a card for the Dunkin Donuts.
posted by theora55 at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2007

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