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Charity: joint effort needed to stop attacks on the homeless

Jean-Ann Hayward, head of operations at Home (Photograph supplied)

The head of a local charity cited an “urgent need” to tackle incidents of violence against the island’s homeless population.

Jean-Ann Hayward, head of operations at Home, said several of the organisation’s clients had been assaulted while living unsheltered.

She explained: “From what they have told us, we know these attacks included robberies, sexual assaults and senseless violence.

“Women and men sleeping outside or in makeshift shelters are very vulnerable to physical attack, in Bermuda and the rest of the world.

“UK research has found that people sleeping rough are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence in the past year than the general public.”

Ms Hayward attributed a few assaults to some homeless persons suffering from substance abuse and mental health challenges, which she said increased their chances of being victimised.

She added: “Homeless individuals are sometimes targeted in hate crimes, motivated by bias or prejudice.

“They may be attacked because of their perceived socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender identity or other factors.”

Ending homelessness

The Royal Gazette, in conjunction with stakeholders including Home, has launched its Ending Homelessness campaign to remind the community that the homeless matter.

Home, and others, want to end homelessness. So do we. We want your support. We want you to change your perception of the homeless. We want you to help lobby for simple changes. We want you to show compassion.

Homeless people want to work so that they can be self-sufficient. They did not choose to be homeless and in many cases their plight was brought about by systemic failings in this country.

Ms Hayward also highlighted how the incidents were often unreported owing to “fear of retaliation, distrust of law enforcement or concerns about not being taken seriously”.

She said that unreporting, as well as the sometimes temporary nature of homelessness, made it challenging to collect data on the number of assaults.

Ms Hayward added: “However, available evidence underscores the urgent need to address violence against homeless individuals and to provide support services that address their unique vulnerabilities and needs.

“Efforts to prevent and respond to assaults on the homeless should involve collaboration among government agencies, law enforcement, homeless service providers, advocacy groups and the community at large.”

Resources available from Home to homeless people who were assaulted, include safety planning, access to basic needs and referrals to medical care, legal assistance and counselling services.

Ms Hayward said: “Overall, Home can play a vital role in providing holistic support to individuals who have experienced assault, addressing their immediate needs while also helping them build resilience and work towards long-term stability and healing.”

People experiencing homelessness can contact the police and other emergency services, Home, the Salvation Army, religious institutions and friends or family if they are assaulted.

Ms Hayward added: “It’s important for homeless individuals to know that they are not alone and that there are resources and support networks available to assist them in times of need.”

To learn more about Home, visithome.bmor contact info@home.bm or call 599-9933

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Published May 27, 2024 at 7:54 am (Updated May 27, 2024 at 7:50 am)

Charity: joint effort needed to stop attacks on the homeless

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