Florida has a problem.
Once again, the Sunshine State has been deemed the most dangerous in the nation for homeless people -- the third such designation it has earned since 2008 -- according to the National Coalition for the Homeless' 2012 database of known cases of violence.
In fact, Florida had more than double the number of hate crimes against the homeless in 2012 (15) as the runner-up, California (7), according to the report. Three of country's 18 fatal events occurred in Florida, including the running over of a 73-year-old in Tampa, the murder of a 43-year-old in Deerfield Beach by a suspect who wanted to kill a stranger, and the strangulation of a 40-year-old homeless man by two Hallandale Beach boys, ages 14 and 17, who had asked him to secure a prostitute.
“This violence is prompted by a profound lack of empathy for fellow human beings, the same moral failure that allows our society to tolerate the larger tragedy of homelessness,” Jerry Jones, NCH's executive director, said in a statement. “Homeless people deserve our help and protection. These attacks are a shocking failure in our society’s obligations toward the most vulnerable among us.”
The database even includes cases of "multi-media exploitation," as in the case against Real Housewives star Alexia Echevarria's son Peter Rosello. Rosello, 25, was arrested after filming himself approaching a sleeping homeless man in Miami Beach, taunting him, and punching him in the genitals before running away.
In another Florida case, a Miami man was panhandling at an intersection when he was beckoned to a truck and stabbed in the neck in what police called a random act of violence.
“I thought he was going to give me a dollar bill and I went over to say ‘Thank you,’ and next thing I know I see the pick come out,” victim David Mercado told CBS Miami. “He just smiled and laughed and took off."
The NCH reports a documented relationship between local laws that criminalize homelessness and an
increase of violence against homeless people. The city of Miami recently moved to criminalize homelessness by attempting to repeal protections that allow the homeless to perform "life-sustaining" activities -- such as cooking in public -- without charges. A judge is expected to weigh in on a proposed settlement.
The NCH database also revealed that across the country, 96 percent of all perpetrators of attacks on the homeless were male, and nearly 80 percent were under 30. Twenty-one percent of the attacks were fatal.
How did your state fare? Check the full report at nationalhomeless.org.