There have been some very disturbing stories in the news recently about attacks on the homeless. In some cases, this senseless brutality has resulted in deaths. And just as disturbing is the fact that many of the incidents involve young people. For example, two Michigan teens — both 15 years old — were recently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the beating death of two homeless men. They were only14 years old when the attacks took place, and police say the beating may have been part of a gang initiation.
This type of behavior demonstrates an utter disrespect for human life and particularly the most vulnerable members of our society. And sadly, this is happening across the country. Statistics show violence against the nation’s homeless is soaring and the majority of attackers are teens and young adults. The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty report that of the more than 142 unprovoked attacks on homeless people in 2007, the most — at least 32 — took place in Florida. In fact, the problem is so bad that homeless agencies in Florida have teamed up with schools to develop a curriculum that teaches respect for the homeless.
As we celebrate this joyous holiday season, there’s no better time to remind our young people how precious life is and to teach them about the importance of “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men.” Homeless people are people too. It doesn’t matter what journey a person has taken through life; everyone is deserving of love and respect. We are all equal in God’s eyes.