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STATE OF HATE: How Florida became one of the few states to protect the homeless

The Sunshine State has one of the highest rates of violence against the homeless, but one of the few protections.
Posted at 10:18 AM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 13:16:20-04

The silent surveillance video spoke volumes to the daily struggles of homeless men and women in Florida.

In 2006, Norris Gaynor, a homeless man living in Fort Lauderdale, was beaten to death by two teenage boys.

Thomas Daugherty and Brian Hooks killed Gaynor and beat two other homeless men in a self-admitted alcohol-fueled rampage.

They’re both in prison to this day.

Four years later, then-Governor Charlie Crist signed one of the first laws in American that considered crimes against the homeless to be a hate crime.

“We’ve seen a number of cases where homeless individuals are targeted. It’s a unique class that I think hate crime statutes could address,” said Dr. Seth Falik, who studies hate crimes at Florida Atlantic University.

Falik says Florida’s law could be a national model.

“I think this should warrant greater conversation on the national stage in terms of being a population that should be served under hate crime statutes,” Falik said.

A 20-year study from the National Coalition for the Homeless released in 2020 found more than 1,800 incidents of violence against homeless people.
With 261, Florida had the second most in the country behind only California.

“It’s a very vulnerable population that is fearful,” said Steven Brooder, the CEO of St. Matthew’s House which operates two homeless shelters in Collier County.
“You’re alone, you’re on guard, you’re vulnerable. And there’s a lot of mental illness.”

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