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After Gay Man Killed by Transient, Will Cities Confront Homelessness?


Washington, D.C., Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are all struggling with surging homeless populations, but will change only come after the nonhomeless are affected?

The issue of urban homelessness again made headlines following the death of a gay man in Miami -- the husband of an AIDS organization executive director -- after he was shoved to the ground by a transient arrested 29 times previously.

Spouses Thomas Lang Jr. (pictured, right) and Stephen Dutton were walking in downtown Miami last week when they encountered Evans Celestin panhandling. Celestin is a regular fixture in the area and has been known to hassle locals and visitors, according to the Miami Herald. When Lang took a photo of Celestin -- allegedly to report his behavior to authorities -- the homeless man ran over and shoved him to the ground. The 71-year-old man's head hit the pavement, and he died after being taken to the hospital.

The couple were relatively new to the city; Dutton, 68, ran the Samaritan House of Fort Worth, Texas, for 20 years before he and Lang retired to Miami four years ago.

Downtown Miami, though experiencing a wave of gentrification, is home to many homeless individuals -- it's a similar story around the country, with urban cores absorbing both well-heeled residents and those living on the streets. The nation's capital saw homelessness rise by 28 percent last year, and the situation is so acute in Miami that businesses created a "poop map" to show officials the extent of public defecation.

Cities have been trying to address the issue by building more affordable housing -- Los Angeles hopes to pass a bond measure that would provide over a $1 billion for new apartments for low-income people -- but the problem is not one that takes precedence in the media or in the presidential election, especially after this week's positive economic news reported by the Census Bureau. Mental health services are also desperately needed for some people living on the streets; Hillary Clinton recently unveiled a plan to make mental health care, including addiction recovery, easier to obtain. It's clear, though, that homelessness remains a blip on the public's radar and only rises to the surface when the nonhomeless are confronted by it directly.

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