A note came to the Times-News via our Facebook page on Wednesday. It was from Mel Baerry. It was about downtown problem that won’t seem to go away. It’s most likely the clearest sign that helping those with mental health difficulities remains the largest unaddressed malady in society today.
Here’s what Baerry wrote.
“I wish you would write an article on the homeless guy “Reggie” that is wandering downtown Burlington at night. He jumped out in front of my car the other night and I almost hit him. I could not pull into the parking lot I wanted to because I was afraid he would hurt myself and my daughter. The Paramount Theater has lots of children that have to come outside at night escorted for the theatrical productions. This gentleman accosted some elderly patrons of the theater during the run of Nunsense and has stripped naked in the street. He isn’t amusing or harmless. He is a threat to the safety of himself and other people. Where is his family? What is his story? Why is he free to roam the streets accosting people late at night? How do we as citizens of HIS city help him? hmmm?
Some might recall a few months ago that I wrote a column about a skinny man who roamed the Times-News parking lot occasionally, would become belligerent when people would not give him money and once pounded on the hood of my car as I drove past him on Worth Street. I was told that this person also accosts people outside Front Street businesses at night and was a particular problem last summer after nighttime performances “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Depot amphitheater.
Apparently, the situation hasn’t improved. A few days ago our lifestyles editor Charity Apple said she was warned by Walter Boyd about this person as she left a rehearsal for “The Music Man” at the Church of the Holy Comforter downtown. Walter offered to escort Charity to her car.
Mr. Baerry’s post drew similar comments from others who have encountered this man downtown.
Outside of a cop walking a beat downtown there’s not much police can do every single minute. They can chase the guy off, but after that, then what?
Most who have encountered “Reggie” seem to believe he has mental health issues. Molly McGowan, one of our reporters, said she was greeted by a “sweet” Reggie. For me, that was a first. I haven’t run across anyone yet who describes him this way.
But that’s what makes this frustrating.
People who come downtown to work or play should not have to put up with this kind of potential confrontation or danger. On the other hand, if “Reggie” needs help, he should be able to get it.
If anyone knows his family or any other connection feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com. It’ll have to do until our blogs are able to receive comments again.