After high-profile attacks against the homeless, the National Coalition for the Homeless is sending homeless and formerly homeless people to speak in schools and to youth groups, USA Today reports. Last weekend, a man was set ablaze in Boston as he slept in a park, and another man’s beating was captured by a store video camera in San Francisco. The coalition reports that there were 472 attacks on homeless people, including 169 deaths, from 1999 through 2005. The attack total, based on news reports, surged in 2004 and dipped last year.
“The overwhelming majority of perpetrators are teens and young adults,” says Michael Stoops of the coalition. “We need to start with young people in public and private schools.” The speakers try to help teens relate to the homeless. “We try to put a face to the issue, to humanize the homeless,” he says. In Fort Lauderdale in January, Norris Gaynor, 45, who had been sleeping on a park bench, was chased and beaten to death with a baseball bat. Three teenagers are charged with murder. Says Stoops: “It seems like there’s been a spike in incidents. We’re not sure if it’s copycat attacks or open season on the homeless population.”