I work in downtown DC and commute by metro train. The station nearest my job is in an area with a lot of homeless, and on most mornings there is someone outside the escalators selling a newspaper that is written and photographed in part(?) by homeless folks, and the sales go to help them (after keeping the paper afloat, I assume). Tonight, as I was approaching the station, an older gentleman spoke to me.
He was in front of one of the two down escalators, had a cane, and a garbage bag partially filled with…something. I moved to go around him to the next down escalator and he asked me how my day was. I try to always talk to homeless people whether I can give them money or not, because I know that most people won’t and it can be dehumanizing. So I answered and thanked him briefly as I continued past. As I was about to step onto the escalator he told me not to let my bed be cold tonight because it’s cold outside. As he started to speak I turned to face him again, but as the sentence continued I turned away and kept going. I felt pretty crappy about myself for doing it. It started out seeming like he was hitting on me but then it didn’t finish that way, and I felt shitty for essentially ignoring him. But I didn’t want to encourage him, either, in case he was hitting on me in a weird way, and I wanted to get home. And maybe he was just…well…mentally ill. I don’t know! He seemed nice, which doesn’t really mean anything either way. But extended conversations with strangers is not so much my thing. I’m not sure what one should do in this situation. Maybe I should have gone to one of the (varied and plentiful!) coffee shops and gotten him something hot to drink. It was pretty cold out. But I’m not in much position to help anyone financially, as I’m just barely getting by myself, and it would only be temporary help. But isn’t fleeting warmth in the cold night better than none? Ugh. Conflicted!