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Archive for June, 2014

NEW REPORT: Hate Crimes Committed against the Homeless in 2013

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

Hate Crimes 2013 Cover

Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed against Homeless People in 2013 is a new report that documents the incidents of violent attacks on people experiencing homelessness by housed perpetrators. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has been tracking these acts for 15 years. Sadly there currently is not a federal system in place to collect these statistics and many cases go unreported.

In 2013, there was a 23.8% increase in the overall number of attacks from the previous year. NCH learned of 109 attacks in 2013, 18 of which resulted in the death of the homeless victim.

This is a widespread issue; attacks have taken place in 47 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They most commonly occur in locations where homeless individuals tend to be more visible and thus more vulnerable to people passing by and seeing an opportunity.

Homeless populations are currently not protected by hate crimes legislation. You can help to stop these atrocities by advocating for local, state, and federal legislation that will classify the homeless as a protected class under hate crime legislation and collect appropriate data on the number of incidents that occur each year. Awareness programs and sensitivity trainings are also recommended to improve the treatment of homeless individuals in your community. Ultimately, providing access to affordable housing and getting people off the streets will be the best way to remove the risk of violence against this vulnerable and exposed population.

View the full report here!

Solidarity and the Homeless Challenge Experience

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

Solidarity and the Homeless Challenge – by Matt Gatti, NCH Intern

From May 28-30, I completed the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Homeless Challenge, spending forty-eight hours on the streets of Washington D.C. with nothing but the clothes on my back and a black trash bag containing an old sleeping bag. Knowing that I would be working for NCH this summer as an intern, I decided to make the challenge a prerequisite to my two months with the organization.

So, I spent two days on the street. I panhandled, dumpster dove, ate at shelters, walked through the pouring rain, hung out at libraries and museums, got kicked off street corners for panhandling or simply loitering, and slept on the pavement with the rats. Those forty-eight hours had their ups and downs. On one hand, panhandling was embarrassing and shameful. Sleeping outside on the street was miserable, and I began to smell my own body odor after only a day. On the other hand, I was on the receiving end of incredible acts of generosity and got to meet some great people. One particular morning, a woman purchased me and my friend breakfast as we posed as a couple. Another time, a shelter staff spent at least twenty minutes trying to find an extra blanket for my friend whose covers had not been sufficient the previous night.

Now, I refuse to try to convince anyone that I completely understand homelessness after just forty-eight hours of immersion. I knew going in that after two days I would head home to my friends and family. With this in mind, I was only ever on the lookout for my closest, most immediate needs. I never had to figure out a way to get off the street because I already knew how I would do so. I do not truly understand what it means to be homeless, without any kind of safety net, and I probably never will.

Despite this, I found great value and education in this experience. Growing up in the D.C. area, my contact with those experiencing homelessness never expanded far beyond serving meals on McKenna’s Wagon or slipping a dollar to a panhandler on my walk to the Metro. These experiences are a part of only one lens from which one can view this issue. There is a large difference between serving a meal at a shelter and eating a meal at a shelter, and that is what I would like to suggest. In the shelter setting, we too often allow barriers to disconnect us from one another. We become service providers and service recipients, and this alienation hinders our ability to live with and interact with each other. We forget the only real difference that separates us is housing status. The Homeless Challenge allowed me to experience a small dose of solidarity with the almost seven thousand people who live without a home in our nation’s capital.

Delaware Introduces a Homeless Bill of Rights

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Civil Rights, Policy Advocacy, Public Education

Delaware Introduces a Homeless Bill of Rights – by Kristin Howard, NCH Intern

Delaware, nicknamed the First State, may soon be the fourth state to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. Introduced in the House on June 3, 2014 by primary sponsor Representative Stephanie Bolden, the Bill’s chief objective is to ensure that people experiencing homelessness receive the same rights and privileges as everyone else. They should not be on the receiving end of discriminatory, disparate treatment simply because they are without a home. While equality is the overall goal, the Bill is comprehensive; it enumerates certain rights that the homeless should never be denied.

These enumerated rights address temporary shelters, public spaces, and other fundamental rights that the rest of the population is regularly afforded. Under this Bill, the homeless will have the ability to move freely in public spaces without harassment and will have protection against discrimination based on current housing status when either dealing with government officials and agencies, such as police officials, or when seeking employment and permanent housing. Furthermore, when accessing temporary shelter, discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, national origin, or housing status will be prohibited. And while residing in these temporary shelters, individuals are further entitled to a reasonable right to privacy with regards to their personal possessions, along with protection from unlawful disclosure of records and private information. Additionally, the fundamental right to vote cannot be denied to the homeless population for lack of permanent address; a park or temporary shelter may be utilized for registration purposes. Lastly, emergency medical care must be provided and cannot be withheld due to housing status.

Delaware’s Homeless Bill of Rights, which is currently pending in the Housing and Community Affairs Committee, amends Title 6 by adding Chapter 78. It will provide the basic legal and civil protections that never should have been denied in the first place.

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