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Experts say homeless are more likely to be victim of crime than commit one

(KCRG)
Published: Sep. 19, 2018 at 5:36 PM CDT
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Police said it was a homeless man who killed an Iowa State University star golfer Monday morning in Ames. It's raising concerns about Iowa's homeless population. Since the murder was near the Iowa State University campus, that concern is heightened in Iowa City.

Just like the stigma that surrounded immigrants following the death of Mollie Tibbetts, experts worry a similar situation will develop with homeless populations.

"I've been homeless in the past. I lived in my car for about three weeks," said Jennifer Patel.

Patel is a peer support specialist at "R" Place, a safe haven for people suffering mental illness and a daytime hang-out spot for others. Now, she tries to work to help others who are home deprived, because she gets it.

"I was paying a check and a half of my rent and I was living with someone who was an alcoholic," said Patel. "We became short on rent for one month and got evicted."

That's why she says the last thing she wants is for Celia Barquin Arozamena's murder to be used to further the stigma that homeless people are violent. She said the opposite is true.

"Some people are scared of the homeless," said Patel. "When the shelter was next-door some of the other tenants were scared.

The numbers paint a different picture. In fact, homeless are more likely to be a victim of crime than commit one. A 25-City Survey shows sixteen percent of homeless are victims of domestic violence. With women, another study shows fifty percent of homeless females report domestic violence was the immediate cause.

"Just because an act of violence is committed by a homeless person doesn't mean at all that all homeless people are violent," said Johnson County Deputy Sergeant Brad Kunkel. "Violence knows no boundaries, it's not limited by socio-economic status or anything."

Kunkel said there's no correlation. He suggests the issue in cases like Tibbetts' and Arozamena's isn't a population, it's more broad; violence against women.

"How do we stop men from victimizing women? We need to focus more on the offender, their history their behaviors," said Kunkel.

As Patel noted, tragedy does not discriminate.

"I was raised in a middle class environment and if I can become homeless anyone can become homeless," said Patel.

KCRG-TV9 also reached out to the University of Iowa who referred us to its

<"a href="https://now.uiowa.edu/2018/08/ui-department-public-safety-shares-annual-safety-message"> annual safety message, which has a list of services the school provides, many of which are free.