Increased Violence Against Homeless People Has Some U.S. Cities Fighting Back

Written by Scott Keyes

Violence against homeless people has been increasing recently, according to a new report.

Earlier this year, a survey of 250 homeless people living in South Florida conducted by the Task Force For Ending Homelessness found that more than 4 in 10 women (44 percent) and 3 in 10 men (34 percent) have been victims of violent attacks since living on the streets. “I have heard more reports of assaults in the last six months than I ever have,” the group’s CEO, Lorraine Wilby, told the Orlando Sentinel, noting that most were not random acts of violence, but robberies of what small possessions people carried with them.

However, even those numbers likely lowball reality, because many homeless people don’t divulge the attacks. Often times, “we don’t hear about attacks because people are afraid of retaliation,” said Lilly Gallardo, director of social services at the Salvation Army.

A cursory glance at crime news shows just how dangerous living on the streets is. Mark Lufkin, 39, died in April after he was attacked at a homeless campsite in Concord. A homeless man whose name wasn’t released, 40, was stabbed multiple times by a passer-by in Hampton Bays last month. Robert Kuntz, 61, was killed in August as well after being beaten to death by a man using a table leg. Two California men are behind bars after attacking a homeless man at 4 a.m. one morning in June with rocks, punches and kicks as he slept on the streets. The list goes on.

The reasons that homelessness is extraordinarily dangerous are as obvious as they are many. Sleeping in tucked away, outdoor areas leaves homeless people vulnerable to attackers. They generally have most, if not all, their possessions right there with them. They are on the streets late at night when few pedestrians are around. Even among those sleeping in a shelter, violence still often pervades between guests. And many in society blame homeless people for their socioeconomic status, affording them less dignity as a person than they do with those who are better off.

As a result of the increased violence, advocacy groups in the South Florida area are trying to fight back. The Task Force For Ending Homelessness is organizing a push to talk with homeless people about how best to improve safety on the streets. Another town, Davis, CA, is considering giving homeless people lockers to store their belongings, which would not only potentially help with safety, but could also help homeless people when they go to job interviews or to work.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress


Photo credits: Thinkstock

97 comments

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

David Y.: I'll sign!

Cathy K.
Beverly C.2 years ago

IT'S SHAMEFUL!!!!

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago

it's a major tragedy, that there is a large amount of homelessness in America. I talk to some of the homeless in my neighborhood at diff times. The most I can do is look them in that face and listen to them and talk to them as if there were nothing unusual about the situation. I care about them, but I'm not sure giving them money (even if I had it to give) is the best idea. There used to be 2 homeless men who were friends. I tried to empathize w/them about how hard it must be to live in the streets. they both said they preferred to be on the streets than in a shelter. I can only think they put their needs for substances above their health and safety. they have both passed away now. It sure is a big thing--homelessness. I think lockers for their belongings is a good idea. and it is very true--most people are only a paycheck away from our own homelessness.

June Bostock
June Bostock2 years ago

While properties stand vacant there should be no homeless people.

Doug G.
Doug G.2 years ago

What else can one expect from this sick demented society?

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B.2 years ago

Julie L., 10:10AM PDT on Sep 12, 2013: "It is worth noting that a significant portion of the homeless have mental health issues. ...."

I agree. Even for people who are "highly functioning", hold down a job, and maybe have some insurance coverage, getting mental health care takes a lot of work. Most of the time, insurance only covers 20 sessions per year, which can get used up quickly if the person needs to visit the therapist more than once a week and visit a psychiatrist for meds. If someone does not have health insurance, then it gets worse and become harder for the person to dig him or herself out of the depression, anxiety or whatever they are trying to cope with. We need a more holistic approach to mental health care, as opposed to the react-after-the-fact format we have now.

Julie L.
Julie Larson2 years ago

It is worth noting that a significant portion of the homeless have mental health issues. Sadly, most of our health care system and our society treat mental illness with less respect than other health problems. We are sorely lacking in research, educated health care providers, funding, safe housing, and education to the public on mental health problems. We tend to fear what we don't understand. It's way, way past time that our society pays more attention to this lacking area of our health care system.

Heidi R.
Past Member 2 years ago

I worked with homeless people. You would be surprised at how many are well educated, some have served in the armed forces and some are just unfortunate. I learned not to judge.

Homelessness could happen to any of us for many and varied reasons.

Respect all, each has a lesson to teach.

Jocelyn Valdez-Loqui

LET US LEARN TO PUT SOMEONE LESS FORTUNATE THAN OURSELVES FIRST. IF YOU SEE A HOMELESS PERSON AND HAVE A BIT OF SPARE CHANGE OR A SANDWICH, GIVE IT UP TO THEM.

OTHER IDEAS TO HELP THE HOMELESS IS TO LEARN WHERE IS THE NEAREST SHELTERS AND WELFARE OFFICE (PUBLIC ASSISTANCE OFFICE) ARE, AND THEN TYPE/WRITE IT DOWN ON PAPER AND MAKE COPIES AND HAND THEM OUT TO EVERY HOMELES PERSON YOU MEET.

OTHER IDEAS IS TO WRITE TO THE PRESIDENT, CONGRESSMAN, SENATORS ABOUT YOUR STATE AND TO HELP CONVERT THOSE EMPTY LOTS AND BUILDINGS INTO SHELTERS AND RESIDENCE BUILDINGS FOR THE HOMELESS AND POOR.

WHERE THERE'S A WILL OF MIND AND HEART, THERE WILL BE A WAY TO HELP.

GOD BLESS............

Anne Moran
Anne Moran2 years ago

BE CAREFUL,,, THERE ARE HOMELESS PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO ARE MENTALLY ILL, AND THEY WILL ATTACK YOU, IF YOU DISRESPECT/BOTHER THEM... - I WORK WITH MANY HOMELESS PEOPLE AND I WOULDN'T MESS WITH A LOT OF THEM... [ NOT THAT I MESS WITH PEOPLE'S HEADS IN THE FIRST PLACE..]