Florida Leads Nation In Violent Crimes Against Homeless People

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The homeless say they're often ignored or misunderstood and unfortunately that mind set can often lead to violent attacks against them.

"Just three days ago a gun was pointed at me where a fella was going to try and force me to pay him $200 for a taxi ride," said a Tallahassee homeless man who only wanted to be identified as Clarence.

"We have young kids 10 years old, 13 years old, 17 years old beating homeless people to death because they don't think that they're people," said Jacob Reiter, Americorps VISTA worker in Tallahassee.

A new study just released by the National Coalition for the Homeless, shows for the third straight year Florida leads the nation in the number of reported attacks against the homeless.

And while those numbers have decreased since 2006, this is the third consecutive year Florida topped the violent list.

"It's just a shame that they seem to just get lost or picked on and people don't even think about them as normal people sometimes," said Brian Brindza, who says he's been homeless for several years now.

Over the past few years, several homeless people in Tallahassee have died from violent attacks... and people living on the streets say they still fear for their life every time they close their eyes.

"They ride around with the gang mentality that they would actually have another gang member jump on you assault you and even to the point of extortion where you're forced to pay money," said Clarence.

"They're scared to sleep on the streets because they don't want to get attacked in the middle of the night," said Jacob Reiter.

But the Coalition is taking measures to change this dangerous trend by placing Americorp Vista workers throughout the state, including in Tallahassee.

Jason Reiter visits local schools and youth groups, bringing awareness about the homeless population through personal testimony from those who are experiencing it.

"It's called the Homeless Panel where guests from the homeless shelter are brought in and we speak to kids about homelessness and I mean that right there, anybody who sat into one of those sessions, they would walk out the rest of their lives feeling completely different about homelessness. If people made contact with these people and became more aware of what they're going through, a whole lot would change, I mean there would be respect," said Reiter.

Reiter along with the National Coalition hope by sharing stories and helping the public realize that anyone could potentially fall victim to homelessness, violent attacks will decrease statewide.