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  KD MAGAZINE!                    ב"ה   
 
 
     
 

The Real Homeless Problem
By Rabbi Shea Hecht

Legislation making attacks on the homeless a hate-crime has been introduced in Alaska, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio and Texas. Bills making attacks on the homeless illegal are also pending in Congress. I think it's a sad commentary on society.
 
Nationwide, violence against the homeless is soaring, and overwhelmingly the attackers are teenagers and young adults. When I read news stories that highlight the increase of youthful crime and violence against the homeless I wonder what society has taught our children.
 
There's no doubt about it. Learning is a life long experience. Though we begin the learning process as babies we continue to learn even as adults. We spend every breathing moment taking things in analyzing, separating right from wrong, good from bad.
 
If children are taught that life is precious, that human life counts, they too will respect life. But when unborn babies are expendable, the old and infirm are nonessential, the sick are useless - they just sit around and wait to be killed - what message do we send?
 
The National Coalition for the Homeless is setting up speakers bureaus in Florida to deal with attacks on the homeless. They chose Florida as their starting point - because though attacks on the homeless rose about 65 percent nationwide since 2005 - the sharpest rise of attacks on homeless are by teens in Florida. 
 
In 2006 a surveillance camera in Fort Lauderdale caught one teen laughing as he beat a homeless man with a baseball bat. A group of teenagers attacked three homeless men that night and face a murder trial in one man's death. A year later in Daytona Beach, a 17-year-old and two 10-year-olds attacked a homeless Army veteran. One 10-year-old dropped a cement block on the man's face, the police said.
 
"What could possibly be in the mind of a 10- or 12-year-old that would possess them to pick up a rock and pick up a brick and beat another human being in the head?" asked Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. "It defies any rational thought process, but it's also why we felt so strongly we had to do something."
 
Advocates for the homeless blame a culture that shuns the homeless through laws that criminalize sleeping in public places such as parks and camping areas. They also blame a society that outlaws begging.
 
I think that the problem is much different than that. I think a society where we do not respect human life leads to the problems we are now witnessing. We have already sent the message that the unborn, infirm and old are expendable. Why wouldn't teens who have no moral grounding want to amuse themselves by attacking homeless?
 
The fact is that the homeless are already protected by the same laws that protect each of us from attack. Any further laws are a waste of time. Society would be better off figuring out how to better instill a basic respect for human life in our youth - a way to tackle the real homeless problem. We must teach our children that all human life is created in the image of G-d instead of passing laws protecting people from crimes just because they are unlucky enough to be without a home.

 

***

Rabbi Shea Hecht's website: www.sheahecht.com


 

 
   
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