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Why Do California Governors Keep Vetoing Homeless Hate Crime Bills?

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Civil Rights, Hate Crimes

You would think that in a progressive state like California there wouldn’t be three different Governors (two Republicans and one Democrat) who have vetoed homeless hate crimes legislation.  But such is the case.  Disproving that the third try is a charm, on August 5, 2011 Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed AB 312.

Introduced by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), AB 312 would have granted homeless people the right to invoke hate crimes protection when suing an assailant in civil court.   Current categories include:  race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, political opinion and position in a labor dispute.

It was supported by state trial lawyers, veterans’ organizations, county sheriffs and the state’s rank and file police officers.

In an interview with EverythingLongBeach.com, Assemblywoman Lowenthal said, “Homeless people have enough problems without becoming the targets of violence.  This bill is the state’s way of saying those kinds of attacks are especially reprehensible.”

In his veto message, Gov. Brown said, “This bill would expand the provisions of the Ralph Civil Rights Act to include homelessness or the perception that one is homeless, thereby creating new private and enforcement remedies.  It is undeniable that homeless people are vulnerable to victimization, but California already has very strong civil and criminal laws that provide sufficient protection.”

But according to Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, “California for years has consistently ranked first or second in bias homicides against the homeless. Moreover, they are often attacked serially with increasing severity. Yet, current legislation completely excludes the homeless as a group from even the basic civil remedies extended to many other groups to stave off these horrible attacks. For anyone to say that the status quo is acceptable strains credulity.”

He should redirect his letter to the family of Kelly Thomas, 37, a schizophrenic homeless man in Fullerton, who died after a July 5th, 2011 interaction with police.  The brutal beating of Thomas has sparked an international outcry along with rallies, officer’s suspensions, calls for the resignation of the police chief, and pending investigations by local and federal authorities.

Last year Brown’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill -AB 2706- also introduced  by Assemblywoman Lowenthal.

In his veto letter dated September 29, 2010 to Members of the California Assembly, Gov. Schwarzenegger wrote:  “While this bill is well-intentioned, it is unclear whether the homeless are targeted for violence because they are homeless, or because they possess a characteristic already protected by California’s hate crime statute, such as mental or physical disability.   Furthermore, poverty, unlike race, gender, national origin and disability, is not a suspect classification.  Because of the incongruence between the recognized classifications listed in the Civil Code section 51.7 and homelessness, this bill could result in legal challenges and increased court costs.”

The former Governor must have forgotten the October 9, 2009 incident in which John Robert McGraham, 55, a homeless man, was drenched in gasoline and set on fire on the side of the road in Los Angeles.  He died.  According to a police officer, the perpetrator, John Martin, had a “straight-up personal dislike and little bit of crazy” toward homeless people.

In both legislative sessions the bills passed overwhelmingly, but along partisan lines.  Democrats generally in favor; Republicans opposed.

Other homeless hate crimes legislation has been stalled, getting tied up into California’s prison overcrowding issue.  In 1994, then Republican Governor Pete Wilson vetoed an even stronger bill that would have simply added homelessness to the state’s existing hate crimes law.

However, there is clearly a need for anti-hate legislation in California.  Since 1999, the National Coalition for the Homeless has issued an annual report on hate crimes and violence against the homeless population.

Between 1999 to 2009, there were a total of 213 hate crimes/violent incidents against the homeless occurring in 48 California cities.   Forty-eight resulted in death.  California had the most incidents of any state during this eleven year period.  Florida came in second with 177 attacks.

Preliminary numbers from NCH’s annual (2010) report on hate crimes/violence against the homeless population has California taking second place only to Florida.   But California still ranks number one for the twelve year period from 1999 to 2010.

But even with three strikes against homeless hate crimes bills, we’re not out yet. Looking forward, the fight in California is far from over. Lowenthal hopes that as states around the country pass similar laws, such as Florida, people will see more the importance of hate crimes legislation that protects people experiencing homelessness. She also expresses her continued resolve, stating, “This legislation has now been vetoed by two successive governors. That is disappointing and frustrating, but I’ve been working on homelessness issues for a long time and making progress is never easy.”

By Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing, National Coalition for the Homeless.

NCH Headquarters Resembles a Portrait Art Gallery with a Homelessness Theme

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy

Over the years, NCH has had many homeless-related artwork either loaned or donated to us.   If you come visit us at our office located in the Church of the Pilgrims here in Washington, DC, you will find the following exhibits at the NCH office, and in the Church’s Bird Room Art Gallery and Pilgrimage Retreat Center.  Each year several thousand people get the chance to view our artwork.

If you are interested in checking out our artwork or borrowing our artwork for a special event, please contact us.  Also, if you are an artist who has done homelessness related artwork or know of an artist who has, please consider loaning or donating the artwork to us and or letting your artist friend know about our interest.

Portraits of Homelessness, Frank Russell Four paintings depicting homelessness in Baltimore grace our walls.  Mr. Russell also has loaned his paintings and drawings to Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore.

“Giving Back”, Alan B. Tuttle—These five paintings depict the lives of homeless people with the goal of raising awareness of the problem of homelessness.  Alan resides and works in Oxbow, New York.

Home Street Home (1984), by Fran Adler and Kira Corser.   24 artworks, each with a photograph and poem.  This exhibit is a collaborative photography-poetry exhibition by photographer Kira Corser and poet Frances Payne Adler.  This exhibit was an artistic response to the homelessness crisis in San Diego in the mid-1980’s.

Homeless T-Shirt Quilts, by the late Dorothy Hand.    Since NCH’s founding in 1982, staff and board members have traveled the country to mobilize the grassroots to do advocacy on homelessness issues.   During these travels we came across a number of poverty-related t-shirts that reflect our extensive grassroots network.  As you can only wear one t-shirt at a time, we thought a better idea would be to have these cutting-edge t-shirts made into quilts.

All six quilts were done by the late Dorothy Hand, a quilter from Cincinnati.  She created the quilts in an effort to raise awareness of the homelessness issue.  Her daughter and granddaughter continue to make quilts for NCH.   So if you have a favorite homelessness/poverty-related t-shirt, please send our way.

Images of Homelessness (1999), Tammy DeGruchy (Grubbs).   The Images of Homelessness is the largest (22 portraits) ever oil painting exhibit on homelessness..  Artist DeGruchy painted the exhibit for the National Coalition for the Homeless. The exhibit raises awareness on homeless issues and represents who becomes homeless.

Tammy Grubbs now resides in Pipestone, Minnesota.   She continues to volunteer doing portraits for NCH.  Two of her paintings have been turned into posters that are available for purchase on NCH’s website.

Locked Out, Pat Apt—a 14 piece exhibit—linoleum prints (black ink on brown wrapping paper).  This exhibit seeks to explore how in a society as wealthy as ours, that allows persistent hunger and homelessness to exist.

NCH Summer Interns – 2011

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

We’re really sad to see you all go!  NCH has been lucky enough to welcome the following interns to our offices.  This group has shown an incredible level of dedication and skill in helping us to get some great work done this summer.  Thank you for all your hard work, and best of luck in your future endeavors (maybe there is another Secretary of HUD among you?!)!

Laura Epstein

Laura is a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College outside of Los Angeles, where she is studying government and religious studies. At school, Laura is very involved with Hillel and the College Democrats. She first got involved in NCH through attending Speakers’ Bureau presentations, and she is thrilled to become more involved with causes related to homelessness through her internship at NCH this summer. Outside of the office, she enjoys exploring D.C. and teaching violin lessons. She has been working on writing up hate crimes and publicizing National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

Daniel Honeycutt

Daniel is a sophomore at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he is majoring in Political Science and Music. He plays trumpet and sings in many music ensembles at Allegheny, including jazz band and choir. Daniel hopes to attend law school or graduate school for Political Science following graduation. He recently moved to Maryland from much colder Maine, where he was once an intern for Senator Olympia Snowe. His previous political experience motivated him to seek out a great nonprofit to intern with for the summer, and NCH was a perfect fit. Dan is currently tracking voter ID laws for the 2011/2012 Voting Packet and updating the 2010/2011 Criminalization of Homelessness Report.

Elizabeth Ballinger-Dix

From Seattle, Elizabeth is a junior at Amherst College in Massachusetts, majoring in English. After graduation, she is considering work in international development or conflict resolution. While searching for a way to work on poverty this summer, she learned about NCH through her college’s Center for Community Engagement. After work she likes cooking, reading, wandering around, and talking to anyone who will give her five minutes. Her main focus this summer is updating the website.

Brooke Templin

Brooke is a rising junior at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, majoring in English. She is also pursuing a minor in Biology. Her time at the National Coalition for the Homeless is a part of her commitment and participation in the Bonner Foundation Program, a community service based scholarship program. Brooke first became interested in issues of homelessness when the Speaker’s Bureau came and spoke at Allegheny. Since then, she worked with the Bonner Foundation at a local family services agency in Meadville that provided rental assistance. She is excited to be in Washington, DC learning about the issues and being a part of the advocacy community for people experiencing homelessness. Currently she is working on updating factsheets and the website layout. In her free time, she loves reading and exploring the many sights of DC.

Erin Linnehan

Erin is a rising senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a Political Science and Religious Studies double major with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies. At school, she is a Varsity athlete on the Women’s Track and Field team at Holy Cross, directs the campus community service organization, and sings in her college a Capella group. Erin enjoys the company of family and friends and loves to spend time playing pick up sports. This summer, she has primarily been updating the Foreclosure to Homelessness 2009 report which the organization hopes to release by next year.

Marianne DeAngelo

Marianne DeAngelo is a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN majoring in Sociology and minoring in Communications and Studio Art. She became interested in NCH after researching hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness for two classroom speeches. At Vanderbilt, she has participated in Habitat for Humanity Spring Break, is a captain of the Club Lacrosse team, and is the Recruitment Chairwoman of her sorority. After college she hopes to find a career that relates to her interest in criminology. This summer she has been using her communications experience to improve our “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers’ Bureau.

Shane Poole

Shane graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.S. in political science and psychology.  In the fall he will be entering his second year of law school at Howard University.  Shane plans on devoting his legal career to social change as an advocate for the poor.  He believes that racial unity and education are the keys for progress, and that everyone in America could be given an equal opportunity to make something out of life.  Greatly inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Shane understands that peace, compassion, and love must be spread to all.

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