A new report out of Florida shows violence against homeless people is on the rise. A Task Force For Ending Homelessness survey of 250 homeless people in South Florida found that 44 percent of women and 34 percent of men have been victims of violent attacks since living on the streets. Most of the attacks are not random acts of violence, but rather robberies of the minimal possessions people carried with them.
"I have heard more reports of assaults in the last six months than I ever have," the task force's CEO, Lorraine Wilby, told the Orlando Sentinel.
News stories back up the stats. Take for example, Robert Kuntz, 61, who was beaten to death in Madison by a man wielding a table leg, or a homeless man whose name was not disclosed, who was stabbed to death in Southampton. And, as ThinkProgress points out, the list goes on.
But both anecdotal evidence and the numbers probably underrepresent reality for homeless people. Many of the homeless don't divulge attacks for of fear of retaliation, according to Lilly Gallardo, director of social services at the Salvation Army.
"We don't hear about attacks because people are afraid of retaliation," said Gallardo. "But we observe. We see the busted lips, the bruises, the women who are black and blue. There is a lot of violence among the homeless themselves."
In response to the alarming figures, a coalition of groups, led by Wilby's Task Force For Ending Homelessness, is planning an education campaign aiming to make life safer for the thousands of people who sleep on South Florida's streets every night. The campaign will include information on the safest types of places to sleep, how best to safeguard personal belongings and an appeal to the area homeless for increased cooperation, Wilby told the Orlando Sentinel.
"On the street, you hope there is one person who has your back," Janet Montague, a homeless woman who says she has been assaulted four times in the past few years, told the Sentinel. "But you learn that even that person will steal from you."