Warehouse K
Assault On The Down And Out
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A Sickness Permeating The American Scene


By James Donahue


We have been seeing troubling reports of gangs of young people that are cruising the streets of our cities in cars, on the prowl for homeless people to assault.


Police say young people seem to be making a sport of this activity. They drive the streets with a spotlight on their cars. Riding inside the vehicles are teenagers with baseball bats, golf clubs and even paintball guns. They are looking for helpless victims living in cardboard boxes, under bridge overpasses and in abandoned buildings.


Like gallant hunters with their dogs and guns, stomping through the woodlands in search of wild defenseless animals to shoot, these gangs are on the prowl for human game. And like the wild creatures in the woods, the game they seek cannot fight back.


The beatings of the homeless are not a few isolated incidents, according to Laura Hansen, executive director of the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. “We see it all the time.” She said people are seen with bruises, black eyes and broken teeth on a daily basis.


Authorities say the homeless are under attack all across the land, from Florida to Alaska, and the hunters are usually white men under the age of 20. Baseball bats are the favored weapon, although rocks, bricks, fists, boots, pellet guns and even knives are used.


The attacks have been on the increase in recent years, and they have gotten so bad that some states are passing bills declaring them hate crimes. This makes it a felony punishable by prison if the vandals are caught. But how many of these young hoodlums are caught? When it is hit and run, and the attacker is not known to the victim, the chance of an arrest is very low.


There is a deep sickness permeating America when these people feel no compassion for the down-and-out, and our youth can find sport in attacking homeless and destitute people.


What is worse, the American economy shifted so radically under the Bush Administration, there are more unemployed and homeless people in the country today than existed during the Great Depression. The difference is that there are so many more Americans today, we have had a working system of unemployment insurance and welfare assistance, and there are still enough people holding on to some kind of service employment, that the homeless are not as visible.


There is a kind of disgrace associated to being homeless, so these people hide in the best way they can. They wander the streets by day and then burrow into whatever kind of shelter they can find at night to sleep.


We have heard of entire families sleeping in a car. I found one man living in a camper set-up on the back of an old pickup. Many of these people may still be working, but they do not make enough money earning the minimum wage to make rent payments, or mortgage payments. They have either lost their homes after going into foreclosure, or they have been evicted from their homes.


When we lived in high-priced Sedona, Arizona, a few years ago, we discovered that the people who pumped our gasoline and clerked the stores usually lived in tents in the national forest that encircled the town. They told of constant harassment there by forest rangers, who enforced camping limits of something like a week in any location. After that, they were forced to take up camp and move, hoping they were not discovered at a new site for a few more days. The punishment of being caught was a stiff fine, which was still cheaper than local rental fees.


The unwillingness to reach a helping hand to the homeless reaches beyond the youth gangs and forest rangers. Many cities have passed laws prohibiting anyone from sitting or lying in public streets and parks. There have been attempts by some city councils to make homelessness illegal and giving police the authority to force “vagrants” out of town. Yet tent cities, filled with more and more homeless families, are appearing throughout the land, especially in southern states where winters are not as severe.


With the latest downturn the number of homeless in America is clearly on the rise. And the gangs, often children of the wealthy who have used the market to destroy the lives of so many people, are making sport out of seeking these people out and assaulting them.


In some cases, police say, the beatings go too far and the victims are killed.


It is not a good time to be living in America. Because of greed, the Middle Class has all but disappeared. We fear that America is no longer the great nation it once was.