Targeted Attacks on Unsheltered New Yorkers Highlight Dangers of Homelessness

The shootings occurred amid a crackdown on New Yorkers sleeping on the subways, and reflected a recent spike in the number of homeless New Yorkers slain by assailants.

Adi Talwar

Jeffrey Dilks, who has been staying near Port Authority Bus Terminal, says he’s mindful of the dangers that come with street homelessness. “It’s why I don’t sleep.”

Jeffrey Dilks has been punched in the face. He’s been kicked while sleeping on the sidewalks of New York City and knew people killed while bedding down in public spaces back in his hometown of Camden, NJ. Living on the streets and subways, he says, means bracing for an ever-present threat of violence. “It’s why I don’t sleep,” Dilks said outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal Monday afternoon.

Still, the targeted shootings of at least two homeless men in Lower Manhattan over the weekend were an especially disturbing, if not surprising, series of attacks, he said.

“It’s horrible,” said Dilks, 37, after learning of the shootings that left one dead and another wounded. “We’re living in a sad world.”

Inside the nearby bus terminal, tabloid covers warned of a “Homeless ‘Serial Killer’” seen on surveillance footage shooting a man to death inside his sleeping bag near the corner of Greenwich and Murray streets in Tribeca. Police in New York City and Washington DC believe the same suspect shot another man in the arm while he lay on the ground at 54 King St. later that evening. Two days earlier he opened fire on at least three people experiencing homelessness in Washington DC, police said. One of those gunshot victims died, too.

A bearded man named Wilbert, who stood with his possessions piled on a cart on the bus station’s second floor, called the killings “scary,” but said he feels relatively safe where he spends the nights outside near the George Washington Bridge. “No one has given us a hard time,” he added.

READ MORE: 2021 Was Deadliest Year on Record for Homeless New Yorkers

The shootings occurred amid a crackdown on New Yorkers sleeping on the subways, and reflected a recent spike in the number of homeless New Yorkers slain by assailants. At least 22 homeless New Yorkers were killed by another person from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, according to statistics first reported by City Limits. Those murders contributed to the deadliest year on record for New York City’s homeless population. (To further illustrate the lethal impact of homelessness, another man was found dead in Lower Manhattan Sunday, though police and city officials say they don’t know how he died).

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