HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I think it's very alarming". Those words came from Connie Mitchell, the Executive Director for the Institute for Human Services in Honolulu.
She was answering questions in relation to the two recent murders of homeless men. 62-year old Paul Manner was attacked in the early hours of December 27th. He would later die from his injuries.
83-year old Mamerto "Eddie" Semana suffered the same fate. He was beaten on December 4th, and passed away two days later.
Arrests have been made in both cases. Each suspect is under 20 years of age. This is troubling to Mitchell and other homeless advocates.
"About 70% of hate crimes against homeless people are committed by people under the age of 30, and about 50% are under the age of 20, so they're teens a lot of the time" she said, referring to a national study conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless.
She is also worried about the number of crimes as well.
"We've heard about these two incidents because they've resulted in death, but I think there's a lot more violence going on that we don't know about".
The reason, she says, is because data is difficult to collect on the homeless. Lack of identification, reticence towards pressing charges and other systemic issues are the reasons.
Mitchell says there are ways to defend the homeless from these attacks. Legislating them as hate crimes is something that has been done elsewhere. She hopes Hawaii follows suit.
Another way is to remind people what---and who---is at risk.
"I think that we really need to humanize people that are homeless and help people understand that they're like brothers and sisters of folks out there".