The conventional narrative holds that Florida is a wonderful place to be homeless. There's lots of sunshine and warm weather. There are public beaches. And sure enough, homeless people abound.
But according to a disturbing study released this past Friday, this notion couldn't be further from the grim reality. Florida is by far the most dangerous state to be homeless. Just take a look at these illuminating charts.
According to the second chart, California, which has a population of 38 million, has had 258 acts of violence against the homeless over the past decade, but Florida, which has a population of only 19 million, has logged 217 acts of violence. Three states -- Idaho, Vermont, and North Dakota -- didn't report a single one.
As if it weren't bad enough, the report also condemned Florida for "criminalizing" the homeless community. "Many cities here have enacted severe anti-camping, panhandling, and anti-food-sharing laws" and these cities "are also the ones with the most elevated number of hate crimes against homeless people."
Many of the examples of violence that the report lists are terrifying:
On December 1 of last year, in Deerfield Beach, 23-year-old John Stabile confessed to killing a 43-year-old homeless, whom "he'd been thinking about killing for weeks." On December 12, in Hallandale Beach, two teenagers aged 14 and 17 were charged with murdering a 40-year-old homeless man after they asked the man to help them find a prostitute. After the man did, the prostitute claimed the boys didn't have enough money, but the older man demanded his money anyway. An argument erupted. Eventually, the boys "punched, kicked, and stabbed him with a pen." On December 18, in Miami, a 49-year-old homeless man was "randomly stabbed" while asking for money at an intersection. A man in a black Ford 150 truck gave Mercado some money, then stabbed him in the neck, and drove off.
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What emerges from the grisly tales is the dehumanization of the homeless in Florida. Acts that wouldn't necessarily happen to those in normalized society frequently target those most shunted to the shadows.
"This violence is prompted by a profound lack of empathy for fellow human beings," remarked Jerry Jones, the coalition's director. "It's the same moral failure that allows our society to tolerate the larger tragedy of homelessness."
If you know more, send your story tip to author, Terrence McCoy.