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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.

Why Membership Matters to Jake

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

Jake Walters believes that Membership Matters, especially to young people. Read how youth can make a difference in ending hate crimes against the homeless by becoming a member at NCH:

The Coalition’s You Don’t Need a Home to Vote campaign is aimed at spreading awareness to organizations about issues related to voting among the homeless population. In addition, the campaign aims to register numerous new homeless voters so that they can exercise their democratic right to vote. On this note, membership with the Coalition is crucial as the greater the membership to the organization, the more awareness of homeless voting issues can be spread throughout the nation. Voting discrimination is not something commonly associated with homelessness and many people do not consider it an important issue, therefore it is important that information about this issue be spread so people can be aware of how this issue reflects on homeless peoples’ invisibility in society.

I am also working on the Coalition’s 2012 Hate Crime report, which looks to spread awareness about violence conducted on people experiencing homelessness. This is another important issue that there is little awareness of, and since few states report information on violent crimes against the homeless, this information needs to be spread in other ways, such as through members of the Coalition. Having greater membership would also lead to more resources for this research, since the Coalition relies heavily on input from connected organizations and individuals who are aware of acts of violence in their local areas.

Its especially important that young people be involved on this issue because, unfortunately, the large majority of hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness are perpetrated by youth.  This makes it especially important for young people to become involved in this issue so they can spread awareness of the root causes of homelessness among their peers in an effort to stop others from acquiring negative attitudes toward homeless people and then acting on these attitudes.

Why Membership Matters to Allison:

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

Read why Membership Matters to law student, Alison Dinmore, and how she is working to support the National Coalition for the Homeless:

“Membership with the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) not only exposes members to issues affecting the homeless, but provides them with resources for how to affect change.  This summer, I am working on a handbook to assist communities and advocates combat acts of criminalization against the homeless.  The handbook is designed provide tools to educate, assess, and challenge unconstitutional laws in different communities across the United States.  The handbook will also provide resources and strategies for how to deal with the immediate effects of criminalization efforts for unhoused individuals who are negatively affected by these laws.

In addition, I will be analyzing policy regarding hate crimes and voting rights for the homeless. Understanding policy efforts at varying levels across the country can provide insight on successful, as well as unsuccessful attempts to firmly recognize and ensure basic human rights for the unhoused.  Understanding can lead us to create arguments, solutions, and ultimately laws that protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Membership not only means access to information that is invaluable for educational purposes and policy change, it also means being apart of a movement of dedicated advocates and giving a voice to homeless individuals.  Together, armed with common sense solutions and compelling arguments, we can affect broader reaching change that deals with the immediate affects of and ultimately putting an end to, homelessness.”

To become a member of NCH click here!

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