Danger on the Streets: Marginality and Victimization Among Homeless People

Data from a national survey are used to examine the relationship between marginality and criminal victimization among the homeless. The results show that homeless people are victimized disproportionately often both in absolute and relative terms (i.e., compared to members of the domiciled population)and that the modal pattern entails multiple forms of victimization. Conventional demographic antecedents of victimization receive little support in the analysis. However, measures representing different dimensions of marginality--disaffiliation, health problems, traumatic events, and lifestyle-exposure--all significantly increase the odds of being victimized, as hypothesized. The failure of the lifestyle-exposure variables to mediate the effects of the other predictors suggests that distal factors should be considered along with proximate ones if the vulnerability of disadvantaged groups to crime is to be adequately understood. Implications of the present research for the victim-offender relationship and the meaning of victimization are also discussed.

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American Behavioral Scientist