Homeless Man Bit Cafe Owner, “Safer City” Laws To Blame?

The owner of a restaurant in Venice Beach, CA was recently in an altercation with a transient individual who was disrupting business at the California eatery that resulted in the restaurant owner loosing a fingertip. The altercation began when the homeless man allegedly became aggressive with patrons of the Cow’s End Cafe on Saturday morning. The transient man allegedly stole a customer’s beverage and screamed at patrons demanding money. The 72-year-old cafe owner reportedly asked the man to leave, at which time the man allegedly punched the restaurant owner in the face and the two began grappling on the ground. The homeless man then allegedly bit off the tip of the restaurant owner’s finger before being detained by three bystanders until police officials arrived. The restaurant owner was rushed to the hospital where he received 40 stitches and a skin graft to stabilize the would, unfortunately the tip of his finger was unable to be reattached. The transient man had recently been released from police custody related to another public disturbance incident. Many local officials believe that mental illness could have contributed to the transient man’s behavior.

Disturbances, like the assault on the California restaurant owner, are not uncommon and can be extremely costly. As such, it is important that officials also consider their own liability when it comes to managing and handling the homeless and mentally ill population. Los Angeles County officials have been routinely criticized for their legislative solutions to homelessness and poverty, including the “Safer City” laws. Many critics claims that instead of offering quality care, housing and assistance to the county’s homeless population, officials across the country have created an infrastructure when homeless individuals are often criminalized. Critics sight the overall lack of mental healthcare as a major contributing factor to American homelessness and aggression in transient individuals.

Mental illness and homeless advocates report that the number of untreated mentally ill individuals vastly out paces the number of such individuals under psychiatric care, this culminates in many more individuals with untreated severe psychiatric illnesses living on the streets than receiving proper hospitalization or care. Research summaries complied by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a mental illness advocacy group, indicate than approximately one-third of all homeless individuals across the U.S. suffer from mental illness. Approximately 250,000 homeless individuals suffer from untreated psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression, which often culminate in behavioral complications. Research indicates that many mentally ill homeless individuals end up in the penal system for violence or other civil disturbances.

State governments across the United States have cut funding for services for the mentally ill over the last few years. As a result there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mentally ill individuals without homes or adequate care. Yet, a number of studies have found that the expense of providing mentally illness treatment to those who need it, is far less than the expense of paying for the emergency room services, shelters and prisons where these individuals often end-up in instead. According to the Mental Illness Policy Organization, by cutting government funding for mental health services, state and local are frequently losing money in the long run.

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