Monday, October 19, 2009

Random beating illustrates vulnerability
of a silent population, experts say

The attackers came from all directions, as best that Darrick can remember.

It was early, 4:30 a.m in Chicago. Darrick, 37, who was homeless, was on his way to the "L" so he could nap on a train.

Someone poured a beer on him, then broke the bottle over his head. Two others joined in, kicking and punching him.

Darrick suffered a concussion, and his ribs were fractured. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

His mother, alerted to the attack by a reporter, walked into his hospital room the next day. He hadn't seen her in months.

"How'd you find me?" he asked.

She told him, "I'll always find you."

Darrick has been living on Chicago's streets for about eight years. Because of the violent nature of the attack, he is not comfortable sharing his last name. His mother also fears giving out her name.

On any night, about 21,000 people are homeless in Chicago, according to Chicago Coalition for the Homeless figures from 2006, the latest available. Typically, less than one-fourth spend the night in a shelter.

There are no Chicago statistics on attacks on the homeless. Nationally, such attacks are counted only when a person was targeted because he was homeless.

It was not clear whether Darrick's attackers knew he was homeless. Still, experts said he and other homeless people face risk of assaults every day.

"Every now and then, a homeless person commits a crime and it gets a lot of press," said Ed Shurna, executive director of Chicago's homeless coalition. "Homeless people are victimized much more than they are the cause of problems, just because they are vulnerable."

Police described the attack on Darrick as random. Three Chicago men -- Juan Mendoza, 25, Adrien Brito, 25, and Gilberto Galvez, 22 -- have been charged with aggravated battery.

Read the Chicago Tribune report here.


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