The piercing whistle from a passing train turns my head toward the train station. A sign catches my eye. “Help me. I’m homeless.” Beneath the sign sits a mousey-haired middle-aged man, wearing a red flannel shirt, ripped cargo pants, and no shoes.

His handled-bar mustache covers his parched lips as he speaks nonsensical words to me. Next to him, a charcoal and chocolate-colored hush puppy dog named Sammy, sits…