The National Coalition for the Homeless released its annual report on bias-motivated violence against people experiencing homelessness on December 21, 20 Years of Hate, outlines the 39 lethal attacks and the 44 non-lethal attacks that occurred in 2018 and 2019 throughout the United States. December 21st also marks 30 years of remembering the deaths of people experiencing homelessness through Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.
The report discusses the structural violence that has created endemic poverty, and proposes legislative solutions to lawmakers and advocates working to protect people experiencing homelessness from violence. Combining statistics and narratives, 20 Years of Hate provides an in-depth look at the types of crimes homeless individuals experienced in 2018 and 2019, 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.
The report will be released on December 21, 2020, which commemorates the 30th Annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a remembrance of those who have passed away during the year while unhoused. Events will be 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. 20 years of 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. The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council have partnered with groups around the country to create a Mortality Toolkit now available to help give a more accurate count of those who have perished on the streets of America.
This year’s 20 Years of Hate report marks the 20th 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 2018 and 2019. Often considered ground zero for homelessness, Los Angeles, in particular, saw almost 10% of overall incidents recorded, from acid attacks and video-taped stabbings to police officers murdering a homeless man after a noise complaint. There is a clear correlation between the growing visible presence of homelessness, as occurs in Los Angeles, and the number and severity of attacks from housed persons.
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 20 Years of 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.