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"Kicked, Set on fire, Beaten to Death": Shocking Rise of Violence Against America's Homeless

2009 was the deadliest year for hate crimes committed against homeless people.

Over the past eleven years, advocates and homeless shelter workers from around the country have received news reports of men, women and even children being harassed, kicked, set on fire, beaten to death, and even decapitated. Since 1999, the National Coalition for the Homeless has issued an annual report on hate crimes against the homeless. During this time, our network of advocates has tracked and 1,074 acts of violence committed by housed individuals, resulting in 291 deaths of homeless people and 783 victims of non-lethal violence in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.

With forty-three deaths, 2009 was the deadliest year for bias related crimes against the homeless population since 2000. The deaths are alarming when compared to the number of deaths determined to be hate crimes for all of the current protected classes.  Over the past eleven years, there are more than double the amount of homeless hate crime deaths than there are for all current protected classes. 

Bias-motivated hate crimes committed against homeless people are not isolated issues occurring once or twice a year. 

Profile of Homeless Victim

The most common victim of homeless hate crimes is a middle aged, homeless man. Between 1999 and 2009, on average, almost thirty eight percent of victims were
between the ages of forty and fifty and seventy percent of the victims are between the ages of forty and sixty.  In 2009, the homeless victim’s average age was forty-
five.  In addition to being predominantly middle-aged, a large majority (eighty-five percent) of victims were male. 

The Perpetrators

In contrast to the average victim, the most common perpetrators of homeless hate crimes are young men.  In the past eleven years, seventy-eight percent of the
perpetrators were under the age of twenty-five.  In 2009, nearly half of the accused/convicted perpetrators were under twenty years old.  The youngest known
perpetrator in 2009 was twelve.   Almost all (ninety- eight percent) of the perpetrators of homeless hate crimes in 2009 were male.

In 2009, the National Coalition for the Homeless compiled a total of one hundred seventeen homeless victims of violence who were attacked by non-homeless perpetrators.  Of the one hundred seventeen victims, seventy-four were not fatally injured however forty-three of the victims lost their lives.  Over the past eleven years, nearly one in four violent attacks on homeless individuals resulted in death, and in 2009, nearly one in every three resulted in death. 

Here are some of the cases:

Planned Murder of Homeless Man WOODSTOCK, ILLINIOS - January 19, 2009.

Twenty-four year-old Kyle Morgan was accused of the brutal murder of a twenty-eight year-old homeless man on January 19, 2009. Although the individual attack seemed random, Morgan had planned to attack a homeless man for some time. The homeless man died of multiple stab wounds and a collapsed lung. Morgan was captured after he left the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. Soon after an arrest warrant was issued for Morgan’s arrest, Morgan fled to Tennessee where he hit two pedestrians on the sidewalk when he attempted to flee from Tennessee State Troopers.

Homeless Man Killed By Head Injury SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - February 3, 2009.

Ross Stiles, forty-three, died at Cottage Hospital from a massive head injury, according to police. Stiles was a homeless man who lived in Santa Barbara. According to friends of the victim, they saw a man smash a beer bottle over Stiles’ head. The next day Stiles reported a head ache but did not report the assault. Doctors attempted to operate in order to reduce “massive swelling” in his brain but were too late. Friends of Stiles told police they saw two males confront Stiles, eventually smashing a bottle over his head before fleeing. Robert Evans, a friend of Stiles, lived/camped with Stiles for many years. “He was a real nice guy,” Evans said. Stiles suffered from severe depression and pain resulting from a disability. Santa Barbara closed his case in March but then reopened the case in May after the coroner’s report said Stiles died due to unknown blunt force trauma.

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