(Associated Press) LOS ANGELES—Charles Barfield, living on the streets for the past five years, doesn’t trust anyone.

Armed with a pocketknife, he beds down in a doorway in downtown LA every night, making sure no one’s nearby. “People might look normal, but they do weird … things,” said the ponytailed 58-year-old who sells loose cigarettes for a quarter.

As police and advocates urged homeless people to seek safety in shelters on Friday as news spread of an at-large serial homeless stabber, they face the challenge that many street dwellers like being alone because they feel it’s less risky or simply because they can’t cope with people due to mental illness.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.