Attacks on our rough sleepers embarrass us all – they should be classified as hate crimes.

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This week we reported how a group of girls threw a bottle at a homeless man – before they shouted cruelly: “You have no home”.

The political editor of ECHO, Liam Thorp, reports on homelessness and rough sleeping in the region – here he talks about a shocking flood of brutal attacks on the weakest in the city.

After a shocking flood of homeless attacks in Liverpool, our political editor pleads for harsher punishments.

There is no doubt that Liverpool is a friendly and caring city.

Unfortunately, this is not the first, second or even third time that we have reported violent acts against the most vulnerable people in our society in recent months.

An unspeakably horrible story, it should have been one of those stories that shocked people – because they had never heard of such cruelty on the streets of Liverpool before.

That is why it seems all the more disturbing that our report this week was preceded by the news that a homeless grandfather was one of two rough sleepers who were badly beaten last week by vile thugs who tried to steal the meager funds they had collected that day.

Whenever we publish stories about people in need – such as those living on our streets – we are inundated with offers from people who just want to help.

Just over a month ago, the city – and the country – was shocked to read about an army veteran who currently lives on the cold, damp streets – and who was exposed to an act so evil that I could hardly believe it had happened – and I have seen much cruelty in my time as a journalist.

This man, who had risked his life for a country he loved, was attacked by a hideous animal that put a burning firework in his pocket before it quietly left without thinking for a second of the physical and emotional pain he had inflicted on someone who could easily have been standing on the edge of the abyss.

Fortunately, there are many, many people in this city who care very much for those in need.

In all three cases mentioned above, the victims were offered vital support and understanding by the brilliant volunteers of the Papercup Project – one of several groups of people who sacrifice their time and brave the cold and rain to try to make the lives of these people a little better.

Yet this is a problem – and it is growing.

Channel 4 News reported this week that new police figures indicate that the number of attacks on the homeless has tripled dramatically in the last five years.

And we should take comfort from the fact that there are far more people who are on a par with these volunteers than with those who would do something so cruel to someone they don’t know and who is already in a situation they would never understand.

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