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Five people were found shot to death early Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, in a
makeshift homeless encampment covered by thick brush near the 405 Freeway in
Long Beach, Calif., police said. Unconfirmed reports indicate that several
of the victims suffered from severe mental illness.

The crime upset neighbors and puzzled police, who had no suspects and
struggled to comb the rugged terrain surrounding the crime scene near the
freeway's intersection with the 710 Freeway.

The incident follows the October death of another California homeless man,
John Robert McGraham. McGraham was living on the street for six years,
despite attempts by family members to get him treatment for his mental
illness. McGraham was doused with gasoline and sent to a fiery death by a
still unknown attacker. The incidents are focusing attention of the problems
of both homelessness and mental illness in southern California.

The two attacks illustrate what statistics show, that people living with a
mental illness are more likely than others to become victims.

Victimization is a serious consequence of failing to treat mental illness.  

The fact that people do not choose to be victims was pointed out by
McGraham's sister after his death.

"I wish people better understood the mental turmoil a human being can go
through that puts and keeps them in such a place that they can't seem to get
out," Susan McGraham-Paisley wrote.  Our family has tried for many, many
years to help him but it seemed beyond our reach." McGraham-Paisley and
other family members no longer live in the Los Angeles area, but still would
visit John Robert and kept trying to get him helped he was unaware he

"I hope the horrific crime against our brother will make people realize that
homeless people are human, they do have family, they are cared for. Several
people, when they had learned my brother was homeless for more than two
decades would say, 'He chooses to live this way," a statement she takes
strong issue with.

"I find that comment so offensive and so lacking compassion. Some might say
we all choose to be where we are, but we don't all start on an even playing
field, and we aren't all dealt the same cards. My brother didn't consciously
choose to live out on the streets, he just didn't seem to know what to do
with himself," she said. "Families of homeless are often helpless to make
diagnoses, correct problems without intervention. Both my sister and my
ex-husband contacted various agencies, but never with any success."

Putting in place assisted outpatient treatment may have helped the McGraham
family save their brother. California has the ability to implement Laura's
Law Now in each county.