Is 'Hobo' offensive?

I meet a significant amount of people, most of them are fine and some fill my heart with dread.  A lot of the calls I get sent on make no sense until I actually show up. Yesterday, I got sent out to 'a homeless person has left a nest of rats in a planter box '. I genuinely like rats and abandoned rats are usually in very poor condition so I make it a point to respond to the calls as quickly as I can. I roll up and expect to find a shit filled cage and a dehydrated rat but, alas, it was not that simple.

The reporting party shows up and explains that a hobo who sleeps under the pedestrian bridge has released a bunch of domestic rats into the landscaped area. They have since created a labyrinth of tunnels in the root system of the carefully maintained plants. As I stand there I see a few racing out of one tunnel and into another. It's then that my heart sinks. Shambling about in the corner is an old 'friend' of mine.  

I first met 'Charles' about a year ago. He lived in a Single Occupancy Room (SRO) in the filthiest hotel on the filthiest block. It's a place that I wear latex gloves going in 'cos I don't want to touch the door handles. We'd been tipped off that he had about 300 rats in his room and I love hoarding cases so I jumped on it. Charles opened the door and a 100F wave of putrid air hit me. I actually started wretching which is something I can normally control. I told him that someone had said he had 300 rats and he said no, there are 70 at the most. Either way, I explained, that is way too many rats and he needed to hand some over to me. Surprisingly he agreed. He told me that he had found 3 in a cage and kept them, then they started reproducing, then they escaped from the cage and started reproducing more and more and he just lost his grip. 

I returned to the shelter to load up on supplies. Gloves, metal cages and co-workers to help. 4 of us returned and we went in to this hovel of horror. The room was packed with garbage and there were rats swarming over everything. We just started grabbing rats and shoving them in cages. Picking up clothing and weird shit, shaking it out to make sure no-one was living in it. There were roaches covering everything, used needles and to my nightmare inducing horror; nests of bed bugs. That first trip we impounded 84 rats. I then went back every day for a week and ended up removing 376 rats. I believe that there were still that many left when we gave permission for exterminators to be brought in.

It took weeks before I could see a speck of fuzz in my bed room and not panic that it was a bed bug I'd brought home.

Anyway, that whole situation haunts me to this day so when I saw Charles I almost cried. He told me the same basic story, that he had bought 2 rats, they started breeding, then they got out of his shopping cart (he'd been evicted from his SRO) and started nesting in the planted area. He did say they came out at night so I gave him a box, told him to catch as many as he could and we'd pick them up this morning. The only good news is is that I'm not working today so it's my supervisor who gets to do the follow up. And that part makes me smile,


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