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Letter to the Editor by Guest Matias Vega

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

Guest Post – by Matias Vega

Following last weekend’s devastating murders of two homeless individuals, Matias Vega of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, Inc. wrote this piece to gather media attention.

Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Hate Crimes Committed Against Homeless People in 2013

This is the title of a June 2014 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) on the national trend of hate crimes and violence targeting people experiencing homelessness. I am a family physician who has worked exclusively with the homeless community over the past 26 years, am the current Medical Director at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless where I have worked for the last 16 years, and am a 24 year member of the NCH Board of Directors.

Hate Crimes By Class

For the past 15 years, we at NCH have been documenting hate crimes against homeless people across the nation. Sadly, what has happened locally in Albuquerque over the past 2 months is neither unique nor surprising. Since 1999, there have been over 1400 acts of violence against homeless individuals and over 375 deaths reported in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. 72% of the victims were men over the age of 40, and 48% of the perpetrators were males under the age of 20. For reference, homeless hate crimes leading to death have been greater in number than all other deadly hate crimes combined in 14 out of the last 15 years across all of the US.

These deaths all meet the definition of homeless hate crimes: crimes committed against people simply because of their homelessness and vulnerability. Much can be done to protect the lives of people experiencing homelessness including designating homeless status as a protected class, adding homeless status to existing hate crime laws, or passage of City or State homeless hate crime legislation or a Homeless Bill of Rights, and requirement of law enforcement to complete trainings on how to interact effectively and respectfully with the homeless community. Since most of these hate crimes are committed by teenagers, creating educational curricula in grade and high schools on homelessness can be essential in preventing future homeless hate crimes. As the NCH report documents, “Bias crimes send a message to the attacked group, as well as a message about society as a whole. There is a correlation between the criminalization of homelessness and hate crimes against homeless individuals. Without protection under hate crimes legislation, homeless individuals are targeted as a class because of their status in society. We need to send a message that people who are homeless are still people and, as such, should not be attacked.”

This is the time for NM and Albuquerque to lead the way in making crimes against people who are homeless a hate crime. In America and New Mexico, people deserve the right to a quality of life and safety from violence, and especially, murder, regardless of their housing status. Homelessness should not be a death sentence. We can and must do better in protecting the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

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!

New Hate Crimes report released

Written by admin on . Posted in Hate Crimes, Violence Against the Homeless

2012 Hate Crimes ReportSenseless Violence: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence against the Homeless in 2012 documents the known cases of violence against homeless individuals in 2012. The report includes descriptions of the cases as well as recommendations to help prevent violence against homeless individuals.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has been tracking hate crimes against homeless individuals since 1999. This year’s report only shows a slight improvement in the number of lethal attacks. In 2012 alone, of the 88 attacks, 18 resulted in deaths. A majority of the perpetrators this past year were young men under 30, and the victims were primarily males over the age of 40.

Some of the most horrific cases include a serial killer targeting the homeless population of southern California because he viewed it as a public service, teens killing a homeless man over one dollar, and a homeless woman set on fire who suffered second and third-degree burns over 20% of her body.

“This violence is prompted by a profound lack of empathy for fellow human beings, the same moral failure that allows our society to tolerate the larger tragedy of homelessness,” said Jerry Jones, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Homeless people deserve our help and protection. These attacks are a shocking failure in our society’s obligations toward the most vulnerable among us.”

In many cases, homeless persons are targeted for these attacks simply because they are without housing. The National Coalition for the Homeless advocates for the inclusion of homelessness as a protected class in state and federal hate crimes legislation.

Read the full report.

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