Violence Toward Homeless People on the Rise

Having known several homeless individuals who have either been maimed or perished at the hands of others, this post at http://www.change.org struck a chord in me.  Locally, there was a case a few years back where a homeless man was set on fire with lantern oil and spent days in the hallways of a hospital ER, because the hospital couldn’t find him a free care bed. Ultimately, he was taken in at Pathfinder and now lives independently and is a transformed individual with the correct care and support in place.

Another incident, just about two years ago, a homeless woman was found dead in an abandoned building, partially dressed, with beer cans next to her (her choice of alcohol was Vodka). The title of the newspaper article read “Woman Found Dead in Building”. Beyond that title, there was likely no investigation into her death and who might have been responsible or with her when she passed. In fact, this woman, had a large family that lived locally.  At one time in her life she had been just like any other working mother out there, raising children with her husband, working full time as a bus driver for the transit authority. Once the kids grew up, she entered into a downward spiral of alcoholism that is all too common for many that wind up homeless.

No one reading this post, would ever wish any of our loved ones to treated poorly in life, never mind, being mistreated and so alone in their last breath.

The article:

Crimes Against the

Homeless Are Increasing.

Compassion? Not So Much.

by Becky Blanton September 02, 2010 08:05 AM 

When police got to David Mould, a 52-year-old homeless man living in Fredricksburg, VA earlier this year, he was suffering from severe burns on his whole left arm and on close to 30 percent of his body. He had been sleeping under a bridge when he was attacked and set on fire by someone he couldn’t see. And he was one of the lucky ones.

Mould survived his initial attack. He was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, another of thousands of homeless victims attacked, killed or targeted for the “crime” of being homeless. Chances are no one will ever be arrested, let alone convicted, in Mould’s attack.

When Michael Knockett, also 52, was run over by a Virginia Beach city dump truck in June, authorities said he was sleeping on a low-lying area of the beach and couldn’t easily be seen. Yet a photo taken minutes before the accident by a tourist shows a much different scene. Knockett is sitting in sight on a level beach, clearly in plain view.

If he had been a college student, a mother, a tourist it’s likely there would have been far more of an outcry. But Knockett was homeless, a drinker and no big loss to anyone — at least that’s the impression one gets from Virginia Beach authorities who were either willing to lie about the circumstances surrounding Knockett’s death, or didn’t care enough to check it out for themselves.

A few days after Knockett was killed, a Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney announced that no charges would be filed in the case. Apparently everyone involved — except for the tourist who took the photo — believes that “the driver simply did not see the man because she was looking at trash cans and her two-man crew walking alongside the truck.”

Not all crimes against the homeless make it into the paper. Hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless people die from beatings and assaults every year. Some estimates say that homeless children and youth on the streets die at a rate of 13 per day. Being homeless is not just a bad thing to have happen to you. It’s a death sentence for many. Women and children are at risk of abduction, rape, torture, beatings and being kidnapped and forced into sex trades. More and more men and women are being killed as part of initiation into gangs. Yet law enforcement and city officials look the other way or don’t devote resources to the crimes; crimes against taxpayers come first.

According to a recent report (pdf) by the National Coalition for the Homeless, homeless people nationwide were singled out in more than 1,000 attacks over the past 11 years by perpetrators motivated by anti-homeless hostility and a perception of their victims as easy targets.

Murders almost doubled. Last year was the deadliest in a decade when it comes to hate crimes against the homeless, with 43 people killed, up from the 27 killings reported in 2008.

From being doused with gasoline and set on fire, to being beaten with baseball bats and pipes, homeless people are dying at record rates and it’s only expected to get worse as the numbers of homeless people increase and criminalization measures like feeding and sitting bans spread.

As man’s inhumanity toward man spirals out of control, however, its concern for animals seems to be improving — at least in Virginia. This year Virginia Beach allocated $11 million for a new animal shelter, and just $4 million for a new homeless shelter (for people).

Photo credit: lisasolonynko

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