Assaults against South Bend homeless often go unreported
SOUTH BEND —
A South Bend homeless man is speaking out about the dangers he and others face by being homeless.
One of those dangers is assault. We’ve found this crime is often not reported.
I reached out to South Bend Police to see if they had assault cases involving homeless people as victims.
They have no reports right now. But we learned this may be an underreported crime.
Harry Eyazell is among the homeless in South Bend who says he's been assaulted.
He says in the past 6 months he's been the victim of 4 attacks.
"Right around the time of getting my check, he made me give him my credit card. My ATM. Beat me up and choked me out, but I fight back. That way they stop and they only have my money,” said Eyazell.
Michiana Five Director, John Shafer works close with the homeless like Harry.
He says assault is a daily battle for them.
“Women can be raped. Men are attacked. People try to steal things from the homeless. We give things to them. Within a week's time those things have been stolen and they've been beaten up for it,” said Shafer.
Shafer says in many cases both homeless and non-homeless people are doing the assaulting.
Right now, his group is conducting a survey among the homeless called VISPDATS.
"On the survey there is a question. Have you been beaten up or attacked while living on the streets? A large percentage of the homeless doing these surveys with us almost always answer yes,” said Shafer.
Shafer says one way to help this issue is by having more police downtown at night.
"The only way to cut down on it is obviously the police to catch them,” said Shafer.
"We're an easy prey. You just always have to watch your back. I'm care free and I trust people and hey it's only money it can all be replaced,” said Eyazell.
Experts tell me assaults aren't often reported by homeless people because of fear of retaliation.
They also tell me homeless people fear police won't take them seriously.
The City of South Bend recently announced an ambassador will help with panhandling downtown but not assault cases.
South Bend Police handles those.
The department encourages anyone who is a victim of a crime to call or come to the station to file a report.