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Violence against the homeless in the U.S. is on the rise

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/30/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Despite a decrease of those living on the street, incidents involving them increasing

We look away from them when we see them on the street: People bundled in blankets and rags with handmade signs asking for money. The homeless in the United States is not going to go away anytime soon - what's troublesome is that physical attacks these displaced people is currently on the rise.

The most recent violent incidents involving homeless people involved police shooting a homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The most recent violent incidents involving homeless people involved police shooting a homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/30/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Homeless, violence, attitudes


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This news comes as the number of the homeless in the U.S. is actually decreasing.

Homeless Americans experienced a 23 percent increase in violence last year as compared with the year before. These figures are from the homeless advocacy group, the National Coalition for the Homeless. The U.S. homeless population declined over the same period, with 610,000 people going without shelter on any given day in 2013, which is 20,000 fewer than in 2012.

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New research done by the coalition indicates an alarming increase in violent crimes targeting those living on the streets. The homeless "are targeted solely because of their circumstances," coalition director Jerry Jones says. "People who are in shelters and marginalized are often preyed upon."

As the coalition bases its research on reported crimes covered in news media, the actual number of violent attacks targeting the homeless may be much higher, since many go unreported.

Jones says that he is unable to determine whether the reported increase in violence is due to more attacks targeting the homeless or more reporting of crimes.

The State of Florida has long led the nation in violent crimes against the homeless. The formerly "golden" state of California stole that dubious crown away in 2013. According to an estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, California has the largest homeless population in the United States, with more than 130,000 people living on the streets. Nationwide, both civilians and authorities have perpetrated violence against the homeless.

The most recent violent incidents involving homeless people involved police shooting a homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In Seattle, Washington, earlier this month, two off-duty firefighters and a female companion attacked a homeless man sleeping on a memorial for fallen firefighters.

What accounts for this violence? Experts point to the public's negative perceptions of the homeless community. There are widespread beliefs that the homeless have chosen to live marginal lifestyles or regularly participate in criminal activity.

The destitute appearance of many homeless also makes the public uncomfortable.

"Many people are simply afraid of the homeless, or maybe more specifically, people are afraid of what they perceive the homeless population to be," according to Amy Donley, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida and author of the 2008 book "The Perception of Homeless People: Important Factors in Determining Perceptions of the Homeless as Dangerous."

"The most visible homeless are sometimes easily recognizable due to such negative attributes as being dirty, smelling of alcohol or carting a multitude of belongings, they cannot easily blend in with people around them."

Some who target the homeless are "mission offenders, who believe they are on a mission to cleanse the world of a particular evil," the NCH says. "Others are scapegoat offenders, who violently act out their resentment toward the perceived growing economic power of a particular racial or ethnic group."

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