Violent crimes against homeless prevalent in downtown Austin

Violent crimes against homeless prevalent in downtown Austin

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This lively church celebration under I-35 is a stark contrast from what life is usually like, on the streets.

Since November, six homeless people have been killed, according to advocate group, House the Homeless.

"You see a lot of stuff going on the streets at night...like fighting, killing and stuff," said Martin Gutierrez.

He has been homeless since he was 13.

Gutierrez, "I had one guy try and swing at me, but I know how to take care of myself. I ain't scared."

Police say homeless crimes make up 38% of all violent crimes downtown.

Gutierrez said, "They start hitting them for no reason, like taking their money away."

APD numbers show violent crime is up by one percent compared to this time last year.

The most recent death was when police found a homeless man's body in a sleeping bag off the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail in July.

He added, "I don't sleep at night, I sleep with one eye open because you never know what's going to happen at night."

He's not the only one either.

"I have a hard time sleeping. I still don't sleep," said Roseann Marfitt.

He says women have to stay together because they're considered easy targets.

Marfitt said, "We have to protect ourselves as though our life is on the line at all times."

"There are still bodies out there that haven't been found. It's real sad and I'm scared for her because she couldn't get in, she's still not in," said Marfitt.

Roseann just got a bed at the Salvation Army.

Tanya Medina said, "I'm on the sidewalk of ARCH and it's just killing me because you can't sleep like you want."

 

Some say police need to shift their focus to find those responsible for taking those six homeless people's lives.

Gutierrez said, "People who are sleeping at churches, like homeless, quit harassing us. Go find the people who are killing people."

 

It's sad, but they say the violence is just part of the deal...When the street is your home.

In response to the violence against homeless people, House the Homeless is going to hand out 1,000 safety whistles at caritas tomorrow starting at 11:30 a.m.

They're called "thunder whistles," and are a different decibel compared those used by police.

Plus, the group has already coordinated a pattern for police to recognize the users' sounds of distress.

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