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Posts Tagged ‘Hate Crimes’

Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017

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

The National Coalition for the Homeless has published its annual report on bias-motivated violence against people experiencing homelessness on December 21, commemorated as National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against  People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017, outlines the 48 lethal attacks and the 64 non-lethal attacks that occurred in 2016 and 2017 throughout the United States.

The report discusses the structural violence that has created endemic poverty, and proposes legislative solutions to 36 deaths per daylawmakers and advocates working to protect people experiencing homelessness from violence. Combining statistics and narratives, Vulnerable to Hate provides an in-depth look at the types of crimes homeless individuals experienced in 2016 and 2017, from police brutality to stabbings. The report breaks down lethal and non-lethal crimes by state, and each crime is documented by city, date, and description.

December 21, 2018 commemorates the 28th Annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a remembrance of those who have passed away during the year while unhoused. Events are held nationwide to remember thousands who may not have had memorial services. A growing number of cities have been releasing annual reports on the number of community members who have died while homeless. Vulnerable to Hate only documents a fraction of these deaths. As the National Health Care for the Homeless Council points out, life expectancy for someone who is homeless can be 20-30 years younger than the general population. The National Coalition for the Homeless has estimated that annually, there are 13,000 individuals who die on our streets.

This year’s Vulnerable to Hate report marks the 18th year the National Coalition for the Homeless has analyzed bias-motivated violence that leads to many deaths among the homeless community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has documented increases in reported Hate Crimes against federally protected classes since the 2016 elections. The numbers of attacks reported against people experiencing homelessness have decreased during this time. It is likely that as political views have bifurcated, bias against federally-protected classes has become more accepted or promoted in the mainstream culture. Still, the data collected by the National Coalition for the Homeless demonstrates that bias-motivated violence against homeless persons continues to be highly prevalent in our communities.

California saw the most crimes against people experiencing homelessness in 2016 and 2017. In particular, a series of violent crimes in San Diego were committed by serial perpetrator John D. Guerrero, who was arrested for the murder and attempted murder of several homeless individuals. In one instance, a 23 year-old man, Dionicio Derek Vahidy, was doused in accelerant and lit on fire by Guerrero. This example highlights the randomized nature of the hatred homeless individuals experience.

Federal and local legislation could help to prevent bias-motivated violence against people experiencing homelessness, adding housing status as a protected class under hate crimes statutes or vulnerable victims sentencing guidelines. However, as evident from the crimes outlined in Vulnerable to Hate, a cultural shift is needed to change how US society treats and values our homeless population, in order to prevent hate crimes and to build healthy and compassionate communities.

 

Read the full report.

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.

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