May 21, 2018
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Did the married minister end up sleeping with his homeless guest?

Slate | BDN
Slate | BDN
Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

This week the column is devoted to the question many people ask after they read a particularly juicy letter: What happened next? We published a poll in which readers were asked to choose among five letters that ran this past year.

A top vote getter was the letter titled “Bed Bug,” from a long-married woman whose interfaith minister husband had invited a young homeless woman to live with them. The wife wanted the woman out of the house, but the husband said tossing her into the street would violate all the principles they lived by. I suggested the husband might be ministering to this young woman in a very personal way; that if she needed social service help, he was not providing it; and that if the husband didn’t get the woman off the premises the wife should see a lawyer to initiate separation proceedings.

Dear Prudence,

There were so many commenters who insisted that my husband is a philanderer, or that I am a shrew, or both.

Some background: While I was away visiting my elderly mother, my husband did discuss with me his involvement with the homeless person during our phone conversations. It surprised me that so many of the commenters believed that the homeless woman was now legally considered to be living under our roof (which is rented). She was in actuality doing everything except sleeping here: showering, receiving mail from social services, storing her stuff, using our computer, etc. But she was not sleeping here because I continually said no.

That was the issue that was dividing me and my husband: Should this homeless woman be allowed to sleep in our home against my wishes and feelings?

Over the summer, my husband was producing a peace festival on a limited budget. He needed this woman’s computer skills for creating fliers, writing letters and acting in general as a secretary. His thought was that they could work a trade. We could give her shelter and she could do the secretarial work until the festival was over, then the agreement would end.

He told her that her sleeping here was dependent upon my approval, which I never gave. He kept saying that she is a human being in need of help. I kept saying that I did not feel comfortable with her here and that her presence was a horrible imposition on me.

There was never any sexual relationship between my husband and this homeless lady. Of that I am utterly positive. My husband was trying to help her get away from her boyfriend, who physically and verbally abused her. I do think there was a lot of the “white knight” complex going on with my husband. But I took an instant antipathy to her even though I felt terribly sorry for her.

After I wrote, one day while I was at work the homeless woman got angry at my husband because he was preoccupied on the phone with festival business and she had had some emotional upset that she wanted to discuss. She flipped out, yelled at him and stormed off. This happened twice more within the next few days. My husband told her that she could no longer work for the peace festival and that she had to move her stuff out. She did so in a tirade, and my husband realized how unstable she was. She is still living on the streets with her boyfriend. We see her occasionally and she doesn’t speak to us.

My husband and I studied for decades with an Indian guru and we try to live by our late teacher’s principles: Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate.

As soon as the homeless woman left, my husband and I agreed that we would let a different homeless woman stay with us until she found a place to live. This second homeless person was different. She had resources: a car, phone and laptop, and she had a desire to work again. She was a sane lady who had fallen on hard times and was looking to get on her feet. I couldn’t stand that she had been sleeping at the side of a church.

This second homeless lady lived with us for five weeks (no sexual infidelity there either). She found a place that she could afford in a city 70 miles away and we have not seen her since.

Then a relative stayed with us for two weeks. When she left my husband and I have agreed, no more visitors or interlopers. We both need our privacy back.

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