Violence Against Homeless People Increasing

by Joshua Kanary

    Gunner Maynard knew something was up when a black ’02-’03 Pontiac Trans Am slowed down alongside him and some young men asked if he would be willing to sell his puppy.  Maynard is a homeless man, and was walking his 4-month-old pit bull terrier and boxer mix, Train Avenue, on Cleveland’s west side.  Despite their persistence, Maynard declined and the car drove away.  Intuition told him he had not seen the last of them.

    Unfortunately, intuition was right.

    On the evening of May 11th, the young men returned with a baseball bat and a knife.  They waited until Maynard was gone to jump his wife, Barbara Butler, who was waiting alone at their campsite with Train Avenue.  One of the attackers slammed Butler against a shed, breaking her collarbone.

    “Get away from the dog before I stab you!” he snarled before he ran off to join others who had stolen the puppy.

    Simultaneously, some of the other young men attacked Maynard not too far from the campsite as he returned from the store.  The men assaulted him, resulting in several gashes to his head.  Maynard ran to some nearby friends, but by the time he returned to the camp, the men were gone and the damage was done.

    Maynard and Butler have exhausted themselves repeating this story to police, outreach workers, and media.  Most people would already tired of answering the same questions and posing for the same pictures while still struggling with the difficulties that come with being homeless, but, as they both state, “We want our dog back.”

    These incidents (including another encounter two nights later, when the men returned and threatened to burn down the couple’s camp) are the latest in a series of attacks on homeless people on the west side of Cleveland.  Two men were jumped in two separate incidents in February and early April at a bridge over West 53rd.  Then, on April 29th, a homeless man volunteering at the Franklin Circle Church evening meal was attacked by a group of teenagers, leaving him hospitalized with stitches in his knee.

    In all cases, the attackers have been young white males, some with shaved heads, age 16-24.  In some instances they were traveling on bikes.  However, in the most recent incident, they were seen driving a black ’02-’03 Pontiac Trans Am.  Most of the attacks have occurred in the early evening hours.

    Maynard and Butler are currently staying off the street and are in transition to permanent housing.  Because Cleveland has become so dangerous to homeless people sleeping outdoors, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has set up an Emergency Housing Fund in order to help homeless people get off the street and transition them into more stable and permanent housing.

    NEOCH has also developed a safety tips flyer that it is distributing to homeless people in Cleveland.  The flyer gives details of the incidents, where they occurred, what the attackers look like, and who to call in the event of an attack.  The flyer’s safety tips are geared toward homeless people who sleep outside, and suggest people should sleep in groups and out in the open, and should keep in daily contact with family and friends.

    If you have any information regarding this incident or any other incidents, please contact the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) at 216-432-0540.

    If you have any information regarding this incident or any other incidents, please

Contact the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) at 216-432-0540.

If you wish to make a donation to help

Maynard and Butler, and others in similar

situations, please contact NEOCH and tell them you wish to make a donation to their Emergency Housing Fund.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 81 June-July 2007