Courts & Crime

California is second in nation for attacks on homeless

They were beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, pelted with paintballs and set on fire.

Last year, 22 homeless men and women were attacked — 10 of them killed — in 10 California cities, according to a study released this month.

In a dubious new distinction for the Golden State, the National Coalition for the Homeless ranks California second in the nation for violent attacks on the homeless.

Behind the stark statistics are the less visible human beings: Five men and women, shot to death last November in a homeless "hot spot" off Interstate 405 in Long Beach; a 55-year-old homeless man, doused with flammable liquid and burned to death a month earlier in a Los Angeles neighborhood; two transgender homeless men, attacked in May 2008 beneath an Interstate 80 overpass in Sacramento by a man with a large "skins" tattoo across his neck.

The deaths and injuries helped place California second only to Florida for violence against the homeless in 2008. Since 2005, California has consistently been near the top of the list.

"There's just absolutely no place in California you can go without coming upon a visible homeless population, unless you're in the parks," said Michael Stoops, executive director of the Washington, D.C., based National Coalition for the Homeless.

With that visibility, he said, comes tension — and great vulnerability for the homeless.

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