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Contact: Michael Stoops (202) 462-4822 ext. 19, mstoops@nationalhomeless.org

Legislation Introduced to Make Attacks on Homeless a Hate Crime  

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, May 8th, U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced two bills to combat violence against homeless persons. The first, The Hate Crimes against the Homeless Enforcement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2217) would amend the Hate Crimes Enforcement Act of 1994, to include homeless persons as a protected class.  The bill would classify any violent act against a homeless person due to their status as a homeless person as a hate crime. The second bill introduced by Johnson, the Hate Crimes against the Homeless Statistics Act of 2007 (H.R. 2216), amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act requiring FBI and police officials to track violent attacks against homeless persons.

Both bills work to decrease hate crimes against homeless people, a growing area of concern for many homeless advocates. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless’ annual report, Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street U.S.A., there were 142 homeless-directed hate crimes in 2006. Since NCH began monitoring attacks on the homeless in 1999 there have been 614 reported attacks, a number which in actuality is much higher due to the low number of attacks reported to police by homeless persons.

Johnson’s bill arrives at a fitting time. Today many homeless persons living on the streets are in constant fear of attacks. As the cost of housing continues to rise through the Unites States more people are reduced to living on the streets, increasing their exposure to these terrifying crimes. Just last month in Daytona Beach, FL two ten-year olds bashed a homeless man in the head with pieces of concrete while egged on by 17 year-old Jeremy Woods.

Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the homeless, described the bill as “a long overdue piece of legislation. The number if incidents over the years show that such laws are necessary. It [the bills] will send both a symbolic and practical message to all Americans that violence against homeless people will no longer be tolerated.”              

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Call your U.S. Representative and ask him/her to join as a co-sponsor of the Hate Crimes against the Homeless Enforcement Act of 2007 and the 'Hate Crimes against the Homeless Statistics Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). Here are the easy steps.

1. Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202.225.3121 and ask to be connected to your U.S. Representative’s office. You can also find the contact information for your U.S. Representative by visiting www.house.gov.

2. Introduce yourself and explain to the receptionist that you are a constituent. Ask the receptionist to transfer you to the Legislative Assistant handling crime issues, or housing issues. If the staff member is not available, please ask to leave a voice mail message for him/her.

3. Offer the following brief message.

Hello. My name is_____. I am a constituent and I am calling to urge the Representative to join as a cosponsor of the Hate Crimes against the Homeless Enforcement Act of 2007 and the 'Hate Crimes against the Homeless Statistics Act of 2007, legislation to make hate crimes against homeless persons a federal offense. Please contact Jennifer Stiddard in the office of Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson to become a co-sponsor, or for additional information.

Please let me know the Representative’s decision. I can be reached at ____________ (provide telephone number, email address, or postal mail address.)

4.Report the results of your calls to Jessica Schuler, NCH Policy Analyst, at 202.462.4822 or jschuler@nationalhomeless.org.

For Additional Information:

Contact Jessica Schuler, NCH Policy Analyst at jschuler@nationalhomeless.org or 202.462.4822.

Contact your local homeless coalition to find out how you can get involved in preventing and ending homelessness in your community. A list of local coalitions is available at www.nationalhomeless.org).

National Coalition for the Homeless
2201 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037-1033

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