Surviving on the streets has literally become a matter of life and death. Yet another report of senseless violence surfaced this week when a teen allegedly recorded himself attacking a homeless man at a Philadelphia-area trolley stop. The video was posted on Facebook and shows the teen exchanging a few words with the man and then hitting him in the face with such force that it almost knocks him out.
Similarly, two college football players were arraigned in Massachusetts earlier this year for allegedly punching and kicking a homeless man they had argued with on a Boston street. It took the heroic actions of a female passerby to stop the attack. She shielded the homeless man with her own body, while other witnesses called 911.
Something is terribly wrong here. Where is the respect for other human beings? Too often, violent behavior has become the way to solve problems or to express inner feelings. Young people are being influenced by violent video games and the so-called “bum fight” videos posted on the Internet that show vicious acts committed against the homeless.
In response to an increase in these attacks — which are considered hate crimes in some states — the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) compiles annual reports documenting this epidemic of violence. The NCH says most crimes of this nature are committed by individuals who harbor a strong resentment against a certain group of people. The most common perpetrators of violence against the homeless are teenage “thrill seekers” looking to take advantage of a vulnerable and disadvantaged group.
Living on the streets makes the nation’s homeless more susceptible to being victimized. They are vulnerable to attacks and robberies of their meager possessions. They are easy targets. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) recognizes this danger and as part of our continuum of services, we help to transition the homeless into temporary and eventually affordable permanent housing.
Additionally, we must teach our children and teens how to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner. They must learn to express their feelings through spirited conversation, instead of with their fists. Encourage them to volunteer at homeless shelters so they can see firsthand that the homeless are humans too.
Many are military veterans who served our country in Desert Storm, Iraq and Vietnam.
They are good people who got sidetracked by drugs or alcohol.
They are workers who lost their jobs due to layoffs or a serious illness.
And, they are the victims of domestic violence desperately seeking an escape.
We must change the perception of the homeless. And, we must discourage violence against them. They are no less deserving or less human than the rest of us.
by Dr. Chad Audi