Series of shootings exposes rising violence against homeless people

People without housing have to face many threats to their well being every day. Increasingly, those dangers include becoming a victim of gun violence.

This month has brought many such news.

A series of recent targeted shootings wounded three and killed two homeless men in New York City and Washington DC. In Sarasota, Florida, the bodies of two non-domesticated women were found on the same hiking trail. Were. In New Orleans, a woman named Chelsea Nicole Whitehead was fatally shot near her tent last Wednesday.

While a suspect in one of these cases was arrested in D.C. last week, criminals are at large in Florida and New Orleans. Each of these cases highlight the dangers faced by homeless persons while on the streets.

“People should be laid off,” said Nan Roman, chief executive officer of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “If they are kept, they will not be subjected to violence in the same way. The fact is that people who are living on the street or even in shelters are very vulnerable.”

“It’s not too complicated,” she said. “The reason I don’t shoot you and me is probably because we’re in.”

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 580,000 people in the United States are currently experiencing homelessness. More than half of these individuals live in California, New York and Florida.

As the number of people without housing increases in cities such as New York, Tampa and Los Angeles, so does the number of daily crimes committed against them.

The trend is first noticed by Donald Whitehead Jr., executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Twenty five years ago he was a homeless person. Since then, he has become a lawyer and well-known expert on the subject.

“We saw a decrease in violence from 2018 to 2019,” he said newsweek, “But starting in 2021, we saw those numbers, especially during periods of escalation in the pandemic.”

Studies have shown that homeless people are more likely to be victims of violent crime than people living in homes.

According to data from the Los Angeles Police Department, homeless people were the victims of about 23% of the city’s homicides, while making up just 1% of the population of Los Angeles.

In New York City, 640 homeless people died in fiscal year 2021. That’s a 4% increase over the previous year, according to data from the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

“Homeless New Yorkers are more likely to be victims of violent crime than criminals,” Jacqueline Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, said in a statement.

Local leaders have had mixed reactions to the growing violence against the homeless population within their cities.

In response to the shootings in New York City and Washington DC, mayors held a joint press conference last week, where they expressed sympathy and alerted non-domestic individuals to the danger.

“We know this is a scary situation and that our homeless residents already face so many daily threats,” said Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, “that it is unconscionable that anyone would be targeting this vulnerable population.” will do.”

Although a suspect was detained by police last week, some advocates are criticizing Bowser for what he said next.

“As our law enforcement agencies work quickly with federal partners to locate suspects,” she said, “we are also calling for asylum seekers to seek shelter. We have shelters in place, They are safe, and we welcome you to stay at one time. We work to find permanent housing for you.”

Despite the mayor’s good intentions, Whitehead exposes his suggestion and the fundamental misconceptions that politicians have about people living in extreme poverty, as he says.

“Most people in Congress are millionaires,” he said. “They have no understanding of what it’s like to not eat and be hungry for it. They have no idea what it’s like to sleep in a tent when it’s 20 degrees outside.”

“Looking from the outside, you might think that any space inside is better than something outside, but it’s not that easy,” said Dr. Vernon Baker, executive director of Just Compassion, a nonprofit based in Oregon. . The state with the 7th highest homeless population in the country.

“There are some great shelters and some not-so-great shelters, depending on where you are,” he said.

While organizations like his offer safe shelter programs, he pointed out that many other shelters suffer from lack of funding, low staffing or inadequate oversight. These structural issues often contribute to lack of facilities, security breaches, and improper sanitation practices within facilities.

Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness noted that for vulnerable populations, especially children, teenagers and single women, a local shelter may not be the safest place to stay.

Citing concerns related to lack of privacy, autonomy or security, he said individuals are showing greater reluctance to live in shelters than in previous years.

“We have a growing homeless homeless population,” she said. “Shelter should be more of a positive option for people, as many of them are right now.”

While non-domesticated people are especially vulnerable to the crime of other citizens, Whitehead says the violence faced by homeless people also stems from government policies.

Police harassment, routine “sweeps”, anti-homeless architecture, and hostile sound design are just a few examples of measures that cities and towns have taken to prevent asylum-deprivations, especially in public areas.

“Abuse is intertwined with people experiencing homelessness,” Whitehead said. “At the same time we saw an increase in the rate of violence against the homeless, we also saw more and more local governments raiding camps.”

He criticized the rhetoric and approach many local leaders took to address the homeless.

“The attacks aren’t just coming from random raids on cantonments,” Whitehead said. newsweek, “It’s also from elected officials, like the mayor of LA, D.C. or New York, saying that we should sweep.”

“If you think about the word ‘sweep’, what are the things that we sweep?” He asked. “We clean up the trash, we sweep the leaves. Language has a negative impact on how people view the homeless.”

Instead of criminalizing this community, we should do a better job of providing support and protection, he said. Experts say health services, cash assistance and income support programs provide immigrants with the tools they need.

Roman said the immediate solution is to build more affordable housing.

“Homelessness is primarily an economic issue driven by a lack of affordable housing,” she said.

“There used to be a surplus in housing, but today, we have seven million affordable units of the homes they need,” Roman said.

He said the minimum wage relative to the average cost of housing is inadequate compared to 20 years ago.

“We haven’t always been homeless,” said Roman. “It’s because of factors like these that a lot of people are not able to get into housing.”

They argue that providing safe and secure shelter to all non-residential persons is the most effective policy to remove them from harm’s way.

To effectively address homelessness, leaders must commit to providing affordable housing, protecting civil rights and resisting the urge to rely on stereotypes, Dr. Baker said.

He argues that even those experiencing homelessness should be given a seat at the table to discuss issues and solutions from their perspective.

“It’s extremely important to be person-centered,” Baker said, “and it works.”

“One of the things that we haven’t done well is allowing people who experience homelessness to be part of the process,” he said, “what programs they actually have, Bringing them to the table to discuss what supports and resources are needed.”

Brian and Julie Morris sit in their room with their three daughters at the Family Gateway homeless shelter on June 18, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. Julie Morris was fired from her construction job in April and the family was evicted from their home in Hearst, Texas, when they could no longer pay their rent.
John Moore / Getty Images

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