I realize that this blog has become primarily a medium for distributing baby pictures and cute stories to friends and family, but I had a more serious experience this week that I want to talk about.

For the past few months a group of teenagers has been harassing and sometimes physically assaulting the group of homeless men and women that sleep outside the Samaritan Inn, a shelter a few block from our house. They drive by and scream profanities at them, often stopping to throw bricks or bottles. Over the last week or so the frequency of these incidents has been picking up and on Thursday night it reached a new low. At around midnight some kids actually parked their car, got out and started shooting the folks sleeping in front of the Inn with a paintball gun. One sleeping man was shot in the face several times, and even after he woke up and tried to hide behind a post they continued to shoot him.
I like to go over the the Samaritan Inn and spend my lunch break there when I can, and I knew the man who was shot. It was an absolute shock when I saw him on Friday. His face was all swollen and cut up, and his eye was terrible looking. He told me what happened and my heart sank. I was especially disturbed by the fact that this has been going on for months and no one had done anything about it. None of the guys have been able to get a good look a the license plate and even though they’ve been reporting these incidents to the police nothing has been done to deter further attacks.

So my friend Dave and I went over there the other night and along with Wayne, the owner of the Samaritan Inn, we sat up for most of the night and tried to get a glimpse of the kids who where doing this. It was raining a little and they didn’t ever come by, but some of the guys stayed up with us and we had a great time talking. They had surprisingly good attitudes and very little anger towards the kids that were trying to hurt them.

This whole series of events got me thinking. There are a lot people who are passionate about the environment. They chain themselves to trees and clean up oil spills and fight against air pollution. There are folks that devote their lives to standing up for bald eagles, polar bears and manatees, and a lot of time and effort is spent making sure that pets are cared for properly and stray cats and dogs aren’t mistreated.

So where are all the people standing up for the homeless? They are one of the most defenseless and vulnerable groups in our society, where are the folks who are passionate about their rights? If there where kids driving past the SPCA every night and throwing bricks at the dogs in their kennels there would be a public outcry, but when it happens to the homeless it doesn’t even make the news.

This is a trend all across the country too. Teenager-on-homeless violence has been rising sharply in recently and very little is being done about it. In the last few years hundreds of violent crimes against the homeless have been reported, many of which where lethal. In Michigan a 53-year-old man was beaten to death with sticks and logs by a group of teenagers who admitted to killing the homeless man just for fun. Two New York City teens kicked, punched, and finally beat a 51-year-old homeless man to death in a churchyard. He crawled to the church steps before finally dying of a fractured skull. (read about more incidents here)

I think that every human being deserves to be treated with at least the respect that we show stray dogs. If you’re a Roanoke resident, give some of your time or money to the needs of the homeless through the Rescue Mission or the Samaritan Inn. Don’t badmouth the homeless to other people or around your kids and make sure that your teenagers aren’t watching any of the videos that glorify violence against the homeless like Bumfights. If you’re interested in doing something for homeless individuals personally, make them a care package.

I plan to spend a lot more time at the Samaritan Inn in the future and I’ll post more about this particular situation as things develop. I feel like this is an issue that Jesus Christ would be doing something about if he were in my shoes. Let me know if you have any good ideas.