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Joel John Roberts

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Homeless Killings: Could Skid Row Turn Into Death Row?

Posted: 01/12/12 06:59 PM ET

There is a different sort of fear permeating the homeless streets of Southern California these days. Not the fear of temperatures dropping in the middle of the night, especially in this balmy winter weather. No worries of going hungry on these streets where a faith group feeds the homeless on practically every other corner or park.

If you are homeless in Orange County or its adjacent county in Los Angeles, there is a frightfully valid concern over being stabbed in the middle of the night.

During the last days of 2011, three middle-aged men living on the streets of Orange County's bedroom communities were murdered by multiple stabbings. Due to the similarities of the deaths, police believe this is the work of a serial killer.

Orange County, famous for being the home of Disneyland, sunny beaches filled with yachts and beachfront mansions, and where Republican Presidential candidates frequent the region trolling for conservative dollars, is now reeling. At least those who are stuck on the streets.

This is becoming the homeless version of this region's murderous scare almost thirty years ago, when Richard Ramirez, also known as the "The Night Stalker," attacked women in the night like some vampire sucking the life out of them.

Those of us living in the Southland during the spring and summer of 1985 made sure we locked our doors and fastened our windows tight, even during the hot summer evenings. The next morning, we turned on our televisions to hear about another woman raped and killed.

Unfortunately, people homeless on the streets have no doors or windows to lock.

Sleeping behind a trash bin or under a freeway overpass is the only form of so-called safety that can be used. So now, many homeless people living in Southern California are turning to homeless shelters. But when there are four times more homeless people than shelter beds, this becomes a sick game of musical chairs where the deficient numbers of beds are turning deadly.

Homeless shelters in Orange and Los Angeles Counties are being notified to help those who are literally scared to death that they might be the next stabbing victim. But the situation is bleak when for every person that is sheltered, three others are turned away, back to the streets where a predatory killer is loose.

For once, the news is not about law enforcement killing a homeless man. Instead, the media is reporting on how law enforcement is trying to protect homeless people from being killed. This is a nice turnabout.

But those of us who have been advocating for housing homeless Americans know that homeless deaths are not rare. In a span of seven years, from 2000 to 2007, the National Coalition for the Homeless reported there were 2,815 homeless deaths in Los Angeles County alone. These were not all murders, but death on the streets no matter what the cause should not be allowed.

The real fix to a deranged killer preying on vulnerable people living on our streets is simple. Give homeless people doors and windows that they can lock so the fear of death stays outside.


 
 
 

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