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Posts Tagged ‘Hate Crimes’

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People

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

The National Coalition for the Homeless is deeply saddened by the recent senseless attacks on men sleeping outdoors in San Diego that have left three dead and one more critically injured.

But we are not surprised.

Over the last several months, San Diego has been sweeping homeless encampments, constantly displacing residents who have nowhere else to go and disposing of items of personal and survival value. Quietly, the city laid down boulders beneath an overpass, on a side walk often used by houseless folks to rest.

Should any of us be surprised that a high school cheerleader was recently charged, along with two teenage brothers, in the beating death of a homeless man just outside of the city?

In the early 1990’s, the National Coalition for the Homeless noticed that a growing number of cities were passing ordinances banning everyday activities carried out by people who were homeless. Bans on panhandling, camping, or even sharing food in public places have since become common place in cities across the country, just as poverty and homelessness have been increasing.

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People a new report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless finds that over the last 17 years, at least 1,657 people experiencing homelessness have been the victims of violence perpetrated for the sole reason that they were unhoused at the time. This number includes 428 men and women who lost their lives for being homeless, and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is easy to see a correlation between the appearance of laws criminalizing homelessness, and the increase of hate crimes or violent acts against homeless people. A 2014 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that out of 187 cities that have enacted some type of law criminalizing daily activities often carried out by people without stable housing, 21 cities were located in California (11%) and 17 were in Florida (9%). No Safe Street finds that out of 199 attacks against homeless persons in 2014-2015, the largest share of incidents took place in California (43 attacks) and Florida (18 attacks).

One possible explanation for this is the message that criminalizing homelessness sends to the general public: “Homeless people do not matter and are not worthy of living in our city.” This message is blatant in the attitudes many cities have toward homeless people and can be used as an internal justification for attacking someone.

No Safe Street cites more than double the number of fatalities from bias motivated violence against people who are homeless than the FBI has tracked for all federally protected classes combined. Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University San Bernardino, Brian Levin, finds that “the characteristics of bias attacks against the homeless are very similar to that of hate crime in general. As with other hate crimes, offenders fit a pattern: typically, young male “thrill offenders” acting on stereotypes, seeking excitement and peer validation.”

Moreover, in communities across the country (except for a handful of progressive cities and states), it is perfectly legal to discriminate against someone who is unhoused in employment, housing, or even in delivery of health or social services. What message are our municipalities sending to their residents?

As we have attempted to legislate homelessness out of sight in our communities, we have created a hostile environment for people who fall on hard times. Social services have not kept up with the pace of need, and in many cases have been cut or restricted. Instead of responding with compassion and generosity, on the whole, our communities have responded with prejudice and judgement.

Study after study has found savings for public services when someone is housed versus homeless. In fact, the University of Denver’s School of Law released a report earlier this year which found that just six Colorado cities have spent more than five million dollars enforcing 14 anti-homeless ordinances over the last 5 years through policing, court and incarceration costs.  Our failure to end homelessness has only brought financial and human costs to our communities.

As we look towards a change in our federal leadership, the National Coalition for the Homeless calls on our fellow citizens to prioritize compassion over comfort. The solution to homelessness, and the best method for preventing further violence, is simple: housing.

 

Read the full report.

View more about Hate Crimes against people experiencing homeless.

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!

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