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!
Solidarity and the Homeless Challenge – by Matt Gatti, NCH Intern
From May 28-30, I completed the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Homeless Challenge, spending forty-eight hours on the streets of Washington D.C. with nothing but the clothes on my back and a black trash bag containing an old sleeping bag. Knowing that I would be working for NCH this summer as an intern, I decided to make the challenge a prerequisite to my two months with the organization.
So, I spent two days on the street. I panhandled, dumpster dove, ate at shelters, walked through the pouring rain, hung out at libraries and museums, got kicked off street corners for panhandling or simply loitering, and slept on the pavement with the rats. Those forty-eight hours had their ups and downs. On one hand, panhandling was embarrassing and shameful. Sleeping outside on the street was miserable, and I began to smell my own body odor after only a day. On the other hand, I was on the receiving end of incredible acts of generosity and got to meet some great people. One particular morning, a woman purchased me and my friend breakfast as we posed as a couple. Another time, a shelter staff spent at least twenty minutes trying to find an extra blanket for my friend whose covers had not been sufficient the previous night.
Now, I refuse to try to convince anyone that I completely understand homelessness after just forty-eight hours of immersion. I knew going in that after two days I would head home to my friends and family. With this in mind, I was only ever on the lookout for my closest, most immediate needs. I never had to figure out a way to get off the street because I already knew how I would do so. I do not truly understand what it means to be homeless, without any kind of safety net, and I probably never will.
Despite this, I found great value and education in this experience. Growing up in the D.C. area, my contact with those experiencing homelessness never expanded far beyond serving meals on McKenna’s Wagon or slipping a dollar to a panhandler on my walk to the Metro. These experiences are a part of only one lens from which one can view this issue. There is a large difference between serving a meal at a shelter and eating a meal at a shelter, and that is what I would like to suggest. In the shelter setting, we too often allow barriers to disconnect us from one another. We become service providers and service recipients, and this alienation hinders our ability to live with and interact with each other. We forget the only real difference that separates us is housing status. The Homeless Challenge allowed me to experience a small dose of solidarity with the almost seven thousand people who live without a home in our nation’s capital.
Delaware Introduces a Homeless Bill of Rights – by Kristin Howard, NCH Intern
Delaware, nicknamed the First State, may soon be the fourth state to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. Introduced in the House on June 3, 2014 by primary sponsor Representative Stephanie Bolden, the Bill’s chief objective is to ensure that people experiencing homelessness receive the same rights and privileges as everyone else. They should not be on the receiving end of discriminatory, disparate treatment simply because they are without a home. While equality is the overall goal, the Bill is comprehensive; it enumerates certain rights that the homeless should never be denied.
These enumerated rights address temporary shelters, public spaces, and other fundamental rights that the rest of the population is regularly afforded. Under this Bill, the homeless will have the ability to move freely in public spaces without harassment and will have protection against discrimination based on current housing status when either dealing with government officials and agencies, such as police officials, or when seeking employment and permanent housing. Furthermore, when accessing temporary shelter, discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, national origin, or housing status will be prohibited. And while residing in these temporary shelters, individuals are further entitled to a reasonable right to privacy with regards to their personal possessions, along with protection from unlawful disclosure of records and private information. Additionally, the fundamental right to vote cannot be denied to the homeless population for lack of permanent address; a park or temporary shelter may be utilized for registration purposes. Lastly, emergency medical care must be provided and cannot be withheld due to housing status.
Delaware’s Homeless Bill of Rights, which is currently pending in the Housing and Community Affairs Committee, amends Title 6 by adding Chapter 78. It will provide the basic legal and civil protections that never should have been denied in the first place.
The Real Meaning of PRIDE by Frank McAlpin
Homeless Youth are OUR Youth
As we, in Los Angeles prepare for one of the largest and most spectacular Gay Pride Parades in the nation there is much to be proud of. We are experiencing unprecedented progress in the LGBT rights movement. From the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, to the acceptance of openly gay professional athletes, to greater visibility and inclusion of LGBT folks in media and politics. Yes, there is much to celebrate!
Yet with all this GAY excitement and celebration we can’t overlook the hundreds of young people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles every night. It is estimated that in the US a half a million youth are homeless, about 40 percent of these youth identify as LGBTQ. And it is believed that Los Angeles is home to the most young people in country experiencing homelessness.
There are numerous reasons as to why youth become homeless such as: abuse, neglect, poverty and homophobia. Often times LGBTQ youth are not physically or emotionally safe in their homes and communities, due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They leave home in search of a more affirming and supportive space to be who they are.
For whatever reason youth become homeless, their daily reality is almost impossible to imagine. It is a reality of constant hunger and exhaustion. Of violence and exploitation. Of rejection and stigma. For many homeless youth each day is just about survival. The realities that homeless youth experience
impact every facet of their life, including employment prospects, education and physical and mental health.
When trying to imagine these realities I can’t help but think, what kind of community allows young people, some already marginalized because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression to be homeless? To have no safe and supportive space to live and grow into the beautiful individuals they are?
Our collective acceptance of youth homelessness in OUR community is not something we can be proud of. It is an injustice so horrific it diminishes our entire community. And its existence overshadows the very equality the LGBT rights movement is achieving today.
These homeless youth, many of whom identify as LGBTQ, are our youth. We, as an LGBT community and more broadly as a nation, must care for these youth. We must recognize them. Talk with them. Fight for them. For these young people represent all that is beautiful and possible in our community. They are our
Youth experiencing homelessness, LGBT or not, want the same things we all want. To be safe, respected, supported and loved. And isn’t that what Pride is really all about?
So as we gather in West Hollywood this June to throw glitter and celebrate our Pride, let us also commit to ending youth homelessness. Let us ensure that all homeless youth feel safe, respected, supported and loved. And that we all come to know the true meaning of PRIDE.
Frank McAlpin, social worker and homeless youth advocate