Monday, February 13, 2006

An easy, visible target

Violence against the homeless may be ebbing a bit nationwide, but it seems to have increased dramatically in Florida.

Florida led the nation with 32 homeless victims of hate crimes and violent attacks in 2005, says a new study by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Eight homeless Floridians were attacked or murdered in 2005 in eight incidents in six cities. A ninth incident involved 24 homeless men in East Palatka threatened with violence if they did not continue working in near-slavery for a farm labor contractor.

Second-place California had only half as many victims, and no other state had more than six. Nationwide, the total number of incidents dropped from 105 in 2004 to 86 last year.

The Florida victims included a homeless man who was beaten during an encounter with police at a Baptist church in Orlando. He ended up in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after he would not let go of the Bible he was holding and could not be handcuffed An Orlando police officer was later charged with aggravated battery.

The murder occurred in Holly Hill, where five teen-aged boys killed a homeless man “for fun” because they “needed something to do.” See previous post here.

Other incidents occurred last year in Broward County, Dade County, Daytona Beach, and Holiday.

For more on the East Palatka incident, see previous posts here, here, here, here, here and here.

Already in 2006, one killing and four beatings have been reported. A Riviera Beach homeless man was hospitalized after he was attacked last week by three young men. In Fort Lauderdale, one man was killed as he slept on a bench and two others were injured in separate baseball bat attacks; three teenagers have been charged in those beatings. See previous post here.

And earlier this year, Sarasota was named the meanest city in the nation toward homeless and poor people. See previous posts here and here.

The figures are probably low because they include only attacks reported by homeless agencies and documented in news accounts. The homeless frequently do not report attacks, said Marti Forman of the Cooperative Feeding Program in Broward County. They either think they somehow deserve it or they have been treated like criminals when they report it. “They are asked: `What were you doing out there late at night? What did you do to bring it on yourself?’” she said.

Read the report, Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street 2005, here.


At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Apparently, the homeless are also a target for the media. One of the local television stations did a "sting" on how much homeless people make, what they spend it on (suggested drugs and alcohol),etc. last night. Unfortunately, I fear this altered some people's already misguided perceptions about homeless people.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Jacqueline Dowd said...

The real misperception is that when people hear "homeless," they think of panhandlers and 50-year-old alcoholics who have chosen that lifestyle.

What you'll see at the Coalition for the Homeless shelter is children, children and more children, as well as intact families. One recent night we were there seeing clients, there were 194 children in the shelter.

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