- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — A series of violent crimes against homeless people in the city has rattled residents and outreach workers.

“They are afraid,” said Cheryl Molinet, a city mental health and outreach employee who works regularly with the homeless. “The only [common] factor is that [the victims] are homeless.”

On April 15, emergency officials found Paul Mountford Jr., 69, covered in blood near a fast-food restaurant. Police said Mr. Mountford was homeless and had been beaten and robbed. He collapsed and died while boarding a bus 12 hours later.

Another homeless man, Orville Jarrett Jr., 47, faces robbery and malicious-assault charges in the attack. An autopsy determined that Mr. Mountford’s head trauma contributed to his death, so Mr. Jarrett also was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder, police said. Mr. Jarrett is being held in jail without bail.

Advocates of the city’s homeless say many of the men and women avoid shelters and churches for the independence of “camps” scattered near the oceanfront and in woods.

They typically look out for one another, taking turns watching the camp and pooling money for the occasional motel room.

It’s a risky existence, as the latest violence shows.

In January, police found Shawn John, 34, face down on a street corner near the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia. He had been fatally shot. There are no suspects.

In June, police found Joseph Moore Jr., 70, stabbed repeatedly in the arm, shoulder and face and left for dead in an alley near a Virginia Beach Boulevard diner. A suspect, John Johnson, will appear in court in June.

A month earlier, Ronald Wood Jr., 34, was discovered fatally shot in a back yard off Baltic Avenue.

Authorities arrested two men in the shootings, but later dropped the charges.

From 1999 to 2005, the National Coalition for the Homeless recorded 472 incidents of violence against the country’s homeless, 169 of them resulting in death.

However, the cases rarely involved acts committed by another homeless person, making the latest death that much more disturbing, Mrs. Molinet said.

“There is a code,” she said. “They care for each other and watch out for each other.”

Such violence is particularly troubling for Kelly Hicks, a Virginia Beach woman whose brother has spent time on and off the streets, often sleeping on the beach under boats.

Mrs. Hicks said he’s now staying with a friend, but she worries about whether he, too, will become a victim.

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