HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police are working to find out who beat a man to death and left him behind on a sidewalk in downtown Houston on Saturday. Investigators believe he was homeless, a population advocates say is more vulnerable to violent crime.
The Houston Police Department received the call shortly before 7 a.m. and found the man dead on Franklin and Bagby Street. The area is in Houston's downtown Theater District near several entertainment and recreational venues. Officers believe he was beaten, then left on the street for a couple of hours before someone driving by saw him and called 911.
The medical examiner's office has not determined the victim's identity, and Houston police do not have any suspects or know what the motive was. The man's cause of death was ruled as blunt force trauma to the head.
Mike Nichols, CEO and president of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston and Harris County, told ABC13 this case is just a reminder of why their work to get people off the streets is so important.
"Recent studies have shown that people who are experiencing homelessness are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence," Nichols said. "Someone like the gentleman who died this weekend, it is awful. It is an awful thing that if they were housed, it's much less likely that they'll have those kinds of traumatic issues."
During the coalition's Point in Time count in January, they recorded 3,270 people experiencing homelessness, with 38% of those being unsheltered (meaning they were living on the streets and not in temporary housing).
According to ABC13's Neighborhood Safety Tracker, homicides are up near the downtown Theater District. The four-year annual average from 2019 to 2023 is three. In the past 12 months, the area saw eight homicides.
Dr. Ben King, who is the clinical assistant professor at the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine at the University of Houston, analyzes deaths associated with homelessness in the Harris County area in partnership with the medical examiner.
He told ABC13 that in 2020, four deaths were identified in the community experiencing homelessness, and three in 2021. He is still waiting for the latest numbers from 2022.
From 2009 through 2021, there's been a total of 38 homicide deaths involving people who experienced homelessness. King said 87% of them were male and the median age was 47.5 years old.
The high risk to these individuals is partly why Nichols said they're committed to getting every person who enters their system housed within 30 days.
He shares that since 2012, the Coalition for the Homeless has helped house more than 28,000 people. Out of that number, 85% have successfully stayed out of the homeless response system for more than two years.
"People shouldn't die on the streets. They shouldn't die by violence. What we can do is commit the funding, commit the political strength, and commit the private stream to moving people to housing as quickly as possible," Nichols said.
If you have any information about Saturday's homicide, authorities urge you to contact HPD's Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers by calling 713-222-TIPS (8477), submitting an online tip, or through the Crime Stoppers mobile app.