NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

Archive for December, 2012

Violence and Hatred Risky for Homeless

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, Report, Violence Against the Homeless

This week, NCH will release their annual report on biased incidences against un-housed individuals, “Hate Crimes against the Homeless: The Brutality of Violence Unveiled”. Take a look at an excerpt from Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, which details the crucial need for federal protections for the homeless. 

Many people worry about the dangers of terrorism, natural disasters, and plane crashes.

Last year, however, more homeless individuals were killed in bias attacks than the sum total of American civilians killed in hate crimes (approximately 10), large commercial air crashes (no fatalities), and earthquakes (no fatalities)–combined. The fact that the 32 homeless killed in bias attacks alone in 2011 are only a portion of homeless people criminally killed each year and come from a pool of only 650,000 on any given night, makes the numbers a cause for concern. Moreover, bias motivated violence is only one of the serious dangers homeless people encounter, including exposure, hunger, accidents, disability and a lack of medical care.

One would think that with all the risks and vulnerabilities the homeless face, they would be the universal recipients of assistance and compassion. Yet among these notable risks, are violent attacks owing to nothing more than prejudice. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) catalogued almost 1300 incidents of anti-homeless bias violence from 1999 to 2011, but these are only a small sampling of such cases, as only a sliver of non-lethal attacks are reported.

Because homicides are more likely to be reported, they are considered more reliable; although, in many instances where attackers are at large, the motive is unknown. Since 1999, the NCH annual survey has reported the number of hate-motivated anti-homeless homicides to have exceeded the total of all the hate crime homicides for every group enumerated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), except in 2003. Even more stark, is the total number of hate crime homicides against the homeless recorded by the NCH for the period of 1999-2011, at 339, is over twice the number of FBI hate crime homicides combined, at 122.

Hate crimes are offenses where a target is selected because of the actual or perceived group characteristic of another such as race, religion or sexual orientation. Over forty states and the federal government have laws that enhance penalties for hate crimes, but only a handful of states cover homeless status. Hate crime laws often enhance criminal penalties, but sometimes are solely focused on providing data collection, training, or civil remedies. After recent legislative advances where six states and Washington, D.C. have enacted hate crime legislation that covers homelessness, legislative efforts over the last two years in several other states stalled.

While most cases involve victims who are middle aged and offenders who are young adults or youths, the Kelly Thomas case put a spotlight on violent police-homeless interactions. Thomas, a mentally disabled homeless man was killed by police, three of whom have been charged in connection to his death. One former officer, Manuel Ramos, is the first police officer in Orange County, California to be charged with an on duty murder. In some jurisdictions such as Boston and Broward County, FL, police have been at the forefront of protecting the homeless, while in others like Fullerton, CA and Sarasota, FL alleged flawed police practices have been the subject of litigation. The NCH has consistently found each year, that while promising police programs exist, there are also disturbing cases of brutality and harassment. Training, reasonable discretion, and departmental policies that take into account the unique issues surrounding the homeless cannot only improve interactions between law enforcement and the homeless, but send a message to young people that such violence will not be tolerated by anyone in their communities.

Goofus and Gallant

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

I’m in a constant wrestle with the whole notion of ending homelessness in the United States. The lack of affordable housing and the resulting struggles of millions of un-housed Americans are profound and can be paralyzing. But, sometimes we’re presented with clearly contrasting personal stories that can help us make sense of these global problems. Recently, two law enforcement officers were each faced with a situation all too familiar to both of them: a homeless man was living-out his private daily existence in “the public square”.

In Sarasota, Florida, Police Sgt. Anthony Frangioni spotted Darren Kersey charging his cell phone in a public park. Mr. Kersey was homeless at the time and unable to access a private resource for recharging. The officer arrested him for theft of a public utility. He spent the night in jail.

In New York’s Time Square, Officer Larry DiPrimo spotted a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk in frigid temperatures. DiPrimo crossed the street and purchased socks and boots for the man with $120 of his own money. He crossed back over and helped the man on with his boots. The homeless man spent the night with warm feet.

These two examples remind me of the cartoon I used to read as a child in Highlights Magazine: Goofus and Gallant. The cartoon featured two contrasting boys responding to the same situation. Goofus was irresponsible, while Gallant chose the responsible route. The situations were always stark comparisons of right and wrong.

If we are to end the nationwide tragedy of homelessness, we could begin by respecting the inherent worth and dignity of each and every human being, especially those we may find most abhorrent. An important aspect of respecting someone is to understand them and their condition. Officer DiPrimo accepted that challenge and met it with compassion. The result was an outpouring of support from the general public. Sgt. Frangioni confronted the challenge and met it with ignorance and cruelty. The public cried foul.

I’ll end this message the same way the narrator would end each Goofus and Gallant strip. When Goofus saw the homeless man charging his cell phone he saw only the wrong that was being done, instead of a person in need of understanding and compassion. When Gallant saw the homeless man without shoes, he saw someone in need and a problem that he could solve. When we see our world as full of offenders requiring consequences, we see things only punitively. When we see our world as full of people with problems that we can help solve, we see things with limitless possibilities: perhaps an end to homelessness.

– Neil Donovan, executive director, National Coalition for the Homeless

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2014 National Coalition for the Homeless | Private Policy
Powered by Warp Theme Framework