Perry stood near his domicile, an ingenious mini Conestoga wagon he’d rigged up on a tiny trailer. It had been his home for years and rested in front of an apartment building. The building owner allowed him to live there in trade for security, picking up litter, and some handyman tasks.

Elmer the husky and I were out for an afternoon walk through the park. A dilapidated RV and battered trailer that had been marooned across the street from the park for four or five months were finally gone—to side streets a few blocks away. How these rigs managed not to disintegrate during transit was unimaginable.

The place where the RV and trailer had formerly been parked once hosted a full blown encampment consisting of almost 20 rigs, vehicles, tents, and pallet shanties. I witnessed its sweeping almost 18 months ago, but now and then new domiciles for the homeless reappear.

Perry had been homeless in the neighborhood for almost 20 years. He survives by picking up trash every day, all day, and accepting donations for his labor. He typically wears a clip-on tie on the job. I give him a few bucks every time we meet and always have a brief conversation with him on a variety of subjects, but usually about homelessness.

The RV and trailer had been parked 50 yards away from Perry’s domicile. He’d lived near the encampment for several years and had also witnessed when it was swept. We talked about it later and Perry registered a level of disgust for those residents that shocked me. I mean, he loathed their garbage, hoarding, drug use, screaming at all hours, loud generators, general meth miscreant behavior, you name it.

It was almost the same level of disgust members of the Old Crow Book Club had for residents of the encampment, and when they revealed this particular attitude is when I learned there are distinct class divisions to homeless people and it typically falls along the lines of which drugs are consumed and if you practice a leave-no-trace kind of homelessness.

I walked up to Perry and introduced Elmer. I fished out a couple bucks from my wallet and handed them over. He thanked me and I thanked him.

Perry petted Elmer and then began warning me about walking the dog in the area; he was always finding needles or pills (presumably fentanyl) on the streets and sidewalks.

I asked him about the missing RV and trailer and he launched into a tirade about their squalor and their occupants, one of whom Perry claimed was an 80-year-old woman and I had no reason not to believe him.

But Perry didn’t stop there. He then began an angry riff about the meth and fentanyl zombies that he frequently encountered in the neighborhood.

“Don’t look them in the eye,” said Perry. “They will roll you and the next thing you know the cops will be at your door.”

I didn’t say anything and Perry continued.

“It’s like chumming for shit if you help these people.”

He asked me if knew what chumming meant, and I said I did.

I also knew he meant shit to stand in for sharks, bad human beings. I got the metaphor but wasn’t sure if I agreed with it or it made any logical sense. Chumming is for catching and killing sharks, not helping them. You can’t really chum a human being with smiles, kindness, favors, big favors, then reel them in and kill them, literally or metaphorically. Can you? I suppose a con man could.

And what happens if you chum a shark and it ends up eating you? Think Quint in Jaws.

I think Perry’s point was that helping some of the homeless and engaging them beyond a simple hello and giving them a few bucks can lead to getting burned.

Never once in all my interactions with the homeless, particularly members of the Old Crow Book Club, have I once feared of getting burned by helping them.

It was time for me and Elmer to leave. I told Perry to keep up the good work. As I walked away, I started thinking about the phrase, “chumming for shit.” I thought about it all the way home.