At first glance, he appears to be the stereotypical image of a killer of homeless Americans. Young. Male. Angry. Short hair, almost to the point of being a skinhead.
Since 1999, the National Coalition for the Homeless has documented nearly 1,200 violent crimes against homeless Americans with one in five ending up dead. Nearly 90 percent of the perpetrators were male, and 80 percent were under the age of 25 years old.
The young man, nick-named "Izzy", was recently charged with killing four homeless men in Orange County, Calif., and perfectly fit the stereotype as if written by some Hollywood script writer. Male, 23 years old, with a military crew.
After hearing of the arrest, most homeless advocates probably first whispered under their relieved breaths, "I knew it."
But the stereotype ended at the first glimpse.
With the media scouring Izzy's background, as if he was a recently captured "Jack the Ripper", the story of a disturbed young veteran of the Iraq War was revealed.
Yes, he was male and young. But family and friends tell the world that he was a compassionate young person who donated to Toys for Tots, and would even help homeless persons.
Izzy was an American hero, at one time, fighting for our country with the Marines, as part of the few and the proud.
Like many Americans hit hard by a stubborn economy Izzy lost his job. His family lost their home through foreclosure, and his father started living in a vehicle.
The root cause for the transition from a typical middle-class American to a serial killer of impoverished people is probably found on the battlefield of a Middle Eastern country. The ghosts of battle haunt even the most compassionate individual. Walk into any homeless shelter in America and one in five temporary residents will share their nightmares on the battlefield.
No wonder why the Veterans Affairs Department is pumping billions of dollars into a program to end veteran homelessness in five years. Too many of our American heroes are returning home to a state of homelessness.
It is so ironic and tragic that a veteran with a homeless father is the young man charged with brutally stabbing to death four homeless Americans.
Talk about dispelling stereotypes.
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