Plenty of us would rather pass a homeless person by than offer a helping hand. But there is also a large portion of the population that is just as willing to harm someone living on the streets because they are too compromised to fight back.
It’s a harsh reality that YouTube prankster Yousef Saleh Erakat has made abundantly clear in a recent Internet stunt.
Erakat, the guy who once kneeled over in skintight yoga pants to show men just how quick they are to objectify anyone wearing revealing clothing, has taken a more sober approach to his social experiments as of late.
In the "Kanye West Yeezys Experiment," Erakat poses as a homeless man napping in a sleeping bag, and leaves out a pair of red Nike Air Kanye West Yeezy sneakers -- which have a resale value of $5,000 -- to see if passersby would nab them.
A number of people grabbed the sneakers without hesitating, while a few hovered around the scene deliberating before trying to snatch the shoes.
After confronting the "thieves," Erakat learned that some of them felt that it’s simple to justify stealing from a homeless person.
One man figured Erakat had stolen the shoes, so it was OK for him to swipe them too. Another said he would use the money for college and Erakat was likely just going to spend whatever money he’d make on the shoes on alcohol or a "fifth of Jack."
But it isn’t just petty crimes for which homeless people are at risk.
People living on the streets experienced a 23 percent surge in targeted attacks last year as compared to the number of assaults in 2012, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Michael Stoops, the group's director of community organizing, believes that a number of factors have contributed to the increase in violence against homeless people.
Attackers are now posting their crimes on social media, giving other people "inspiration" to do the same.
Politicians are at fault, too, according to Stoops, since so many cities continue to pass laws -- including homeless feeding bans -- that demonize homeless people, making it easy to justify putting them in harm’s way.
"Cities continue to crack down on the homeless population," Stoops told The Huffington Post, "by enforcing laws and creating a hostile attitude toward the homeless population."