Homeless Veterans Killed on the Streets they Once Protected

homeless veterans

Disclaimer: The following article contains graphic accounts of violence and homicide against homeless veterans.

Violence against homeless people is on the rise. The Washington Post reports that heinous crimes against people enduring homelessness are being committed at alarming rates. Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge in the number of incidents and the level of brutality surrounding these events. Police describe stabbings, acts of arson, beheadings, and fatal beatings in incidents where housed individuals attack homeless people.

Experts claim there are multiple reasons that homicidal aggressors attack unhoused people. Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, Donald Whitehead, claims that criminalizing homelessness has created a culture of hate against unhoused individuals. It’s important to note that such crimes are difficult to track and nearly impossible to prove. 

Indeed, criminals who attack houseless community members often evade harsh prison sentencing. In some cases, they avoid punishment altogether.

Another component could be the recent uptick in unsheltered homelessness. People experiencing this specific type of homelessness are visibly vulnerable and often on the streets at peak times for criminal activity. This makes them targets for some of the most unthinkable acts known to humanity.

Homeless Veterans are More Likely to be Living Unsheltered

One subgroup of people prone to unsheltered homelessness is former military veterans returning home from the tumultuous conditions of war. 

Data from 2022 reveals that almost half of the veterans experiencing homelessness are living unsheltered on the streets. These individuals often lack the support of families and friends. They feel isolated from the typical social experience, traumatized by the bloodshed they have seen, and alienated by the country they once defended.

Their concerns might fall on deaf ears, but they are far from irrational.

Many Homeless Veterans are Killed on the Streets they Once Protected. Here are Just Some of Their Harrowing Stories.

Robert Barnes, 51, was Bludgeoned to Death by a Group of Teens and Their Moms

On April 7, 2015, a homeless veteran was seated at the Sunoco gas station on the 5500 block of North 5th Street in the Olney region of Philadelphia. Having sworn to protect and serve his country, he was now a helpless stranger on the streets. That fateful day was the last time he would take a conscious breath, although he would spend eight months in a coma before dying.

Like many unfortunate incidents, Robert Barnes’ story began with a lie. 

According to official reports of the incident, a woman by the name of Aleathea Gillard was enraged when one of her sons accused Barnes of attacking him outside the gas station. The son later admitted that the accusation was a lie. By then, it was too late.

Gillard allegedly teamed up with several friends and three minors to retaliate in an event so gruesome that even the teenagers wound up with third-degree murder charges.

A nearby surveillance camera captured the incident in real-time. With the help of three unnamed minors presumed to be their children, attackers Shareena Johnson, Aleathea Gillard, and Kaisha Duggins beat Barnes into a comatose condition. The women and teens sprayed mace at the helpless homeless veteran and began bludgeoning him with various weapons, including wooden slabs, a metal chair, and the leg of a rocking chair.

Perhaps even more haunting, the incident appeared to be a “life lesson” presented to the children by their mothers. District Attorney Chesley Lightsey made the following statement regarding one of the attackers:

“She brought them to teach them this is how you handle your business when something happens to our family in our neighborhood.”

The three unnamed juvenile suspects pled guilty to third-degree murder charges. The three adult mothers each received sentences ranging from 12.5 to 45 years behind bars.

Robert Barnes’ death should be a life lesson for us all, one about the harms of harboring hatred for our homeless neighbors and the adverse effects that hatred can have on impressionable young people. Everyone in this story lost their lives in some sense. How many murders must homeless veterans endure? There is more.

Homeless US Army Veteran Delbert Ray Collett, 64, was Stabbed to Death in Broad Daylight on the Streets of LA

In a more mysterious but equally sinister incident, a US Army Veteran named Delbert Ray Collett was viciously stabbed to death on the college campus he used to attend.

Authorities dispatched to the Los Angeles City College Campus on November 7 found the victim dead under a staircase in a campus parking garage. The attacker, a masked assailant standing approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing approximately 160 pounds, was caught on surveillance cameras carrying out the heinous act in the middle of broad daylight, around 2 p.m. That suspect is still at large.

When will the senseless violence cease? More blood covers the streets.

Homeless Army Veteran George Mohr, 71, was Stabbed 70 Times in a Pennsylvania Train Station

The death of a homeless veteran hit Doylestown, PA authorities hard when they came across a man barely hanging onto life.

His name was George Mohr, a homeless US Army veteran who was stabbed an astonishing 70 times with a pocket knife in a Pennsylvania train station. Sickeningly, the alleged assailant, Dale Wakefield of Doylestown, viciously stabbed Mohr as part of his 21st birthday celebration. The former soldier died after three days of suffering from multiple stab wounds.

Talk To Your Representatives about Protecting Homeless Veterans

There are several things the government can do to prevent incidents like these from taking place. Legislators can first draft laws that make housing a human right for all so that people who serve their country can return to the safety of a home.

We can also draft legislation that recognizes homeless people as a marginalized group and classifies acts of violence against them as hate crimes.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

Related Topics

Get the Invisible People newsletter


Elderly homeless woman in Grants Pass, Oregon


Homeless woman on the sidewalk in Miami


Miami homeless man arrested for being homeless and lost his job


80 years old and homeless veteran in Los Angeles needs help



San Francisco criminalizing homelessness

San Francisco Spends Even More Money Criminalizing Homelessness

no camping zone law encampment sweep

Report: LA’s No Camping Zone Law ‘Mostly Ineffective’ at Housing People

homeless youth

Model State Statutes for Homeless Youth: A Guide to Guarding Unhoused Children

Phoenix police violate homeless people rights

DOJ Finds Phoenix Police Violated Rights of Homeless Individuals

Get the Invisible People newsletter