If you have spend much time in downtown Black Mountain, you have probably seen this homeless guy in black gesturing wildly, having a loud argument with himself, and striding quickly up and down the street. He has been kicked out of Henson’s for spilling their coffee everywhere and dropping litter, and he has been thrown out of The Collective for smoking and being belligerent. Well today I was watering the outside plants and he was hurrying down Sutton Street yelling and gesturing and kicking over signs in his path. And the other day he had tapped on the window of the shop, grimaced, and shook his fist at me. I told customers not to worry about him and not to make eye contact, but I was scared.
My friend Jason Miller happened to be there this morning when he was attacking signs, and he advised me to call the police. I am not the sort of person to call the police, for many reasons I won’t go into, but he can’t just roam the streets scaring people. I feel sorry for this guy and want to see him in a facility where he can get shelter and treatment. So I picked up the phone and called 911. The phone rang and rang and finally I got a message that no one could answer the phone, but to leave a message and they would get right back with me. I left the message that a violent man was walking back and forth in front of my store arguing with himself and cussing at the top of his lungs. I told them I felt threatened. This was two hours ago. They have still not responded.
What if this were a home invasion or a robbery in progress? I’d be asking the intruder to hang out for a while while I made him a cup of coffee and fried him a chicken dinner while we waited together for the police to show up..
A customer suggested I call the Black Mountain police directly. I found the number and called again. Before the phone was answered, I was told that if this were an emergency, I should call 911. Wow. Someone did answer, though, and took a long detailed report from me where I included the names of other businesses who had had problems with this man.
A bit later Ron dropped by and I told him what had happened. Ron has been working on the Foothills Grange getting ready to open on Broadway, and he said that this morning the guys found the man in black sleeping under the tarps at the job site. He had made a mess there including using the site as a bathroom. Ron is very protective of me, and I worried that he would get involved, and of course he did. He saw a police car at Henson’s and stopped to talk with the cop.
He was told that they are called every single day about this guy, but there is nothing they can do. Tapping on the window and gesturing is legal, but if he smashed the window and strangled me, he would be charged. That’s not comforting! He told Ron that if he “had a word” with the guy, he would be the one charged.
I certainly don’t want to see this mentally ill man in prison, because he wouldn’t understand why he was locked up, and the other detainees would kick his butt immediately. But surely there is another alternative. There should be a facility for mentally ill people where they can get a bed. I suppose, however, he has to hurt someone before anything is done. My friend Teresa told me that she would feel more comfortable shopping in Black Mountain if she weren’t afraid of running into him. I wish I knew what to do.