Transients are on the way other side of this spectrum. Transients are drifters, travelers, and panderers. These folks can be very dangerous. Some are actually wealthy and prey on people generosity and vulnerability. Most of these come in and out of town and often times have criminal history and can be dangerous, thieves, or con artists. Several bloody homicides in Casper were committed by transients over the years.
Several homeless persons have mental illnesses or suffer from some sort of serious mental disorder. I have encountered many schizophrenics who have no way of getting help. Those are the sad cases since the deregulation of the mental wards and services. Families have deserted them as well. So many of them are vets. They self medicate.
Also a large number of transients are criminals floating through states where they can't be extradited for their crimes. And still, some are local homeless persons the cops see every day, usually drunk or stoned, living under bridges or near waterways. Usually the local ones seemed to appear mostly docile, just choosing to be in the homeless state and having no responsibilities, no desire to carry on a productive life.
The governments-local and state- have set up a shit ton of services for these social matters. And they are necessary. We still need a better system. Health care, shelters, woman and children centers, vocational therapy, etc. And jail. Yep. Homeless people go to jail often. Why? Because when they are intoxicated or get permanently kicked out shelters in the freezing winter...they go to jail for their own safety and the public's safety.
I don't give them money. I have given them blankets, shoes, and taken them meals. I have given them rides and even done some bang up negotiating with shelters to take them when they have been refused.
If someone has lost everything due to economic reasons and really are in dire straits, that is where my heart goes and my hands. You will see me arranging food baskets, doing Toys for Tots, or volunteering somewhere through my church or the local foundations.
I know. I am jaded. I think 99% of cops feel this same way. I don't think of it as pessimistic. It is realism. No rose colored glasses. I do have a heart and I do feel there are several very sad stories and cases. But my approach is often on the side of caution first. I've seen the back story and the inside of this social problem. It isn't pretty. It doesn't have a happy ending.