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Homeless Hate Crime Legislation Gains Momentum

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, Policy Advocacy

By Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

On April 20, FL/H-11 (Crimes Against the Homeless) was passed 80-28 in the Florida House of Representatives.   H-11 will add “homeless status” to hate crime legislation, reclassify offenses fueled by prejudice based on homeless status, and deliver stricter penalties to perpetrators. A companion bill (SB 506) is now before the Florida Senate.  This is the fourth time the Florida Legislature has attempted to pass similar legislation. When he was running for the job, Governor Charlie Crist (R) indicated that he would support the bill if it were presented for signature.   “I’d be open to that,” was Crist’s response when asked if he’d support homeless hate crimes legislation.

If the Florida legislation passes and becomes law, it will follow the lead of other states/jurisdictions (Alaska, California, Maine, Maryland, Puerto Rico) and cities (Cleveland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, DC,) who have passed various versions of homeless hate crimes legislation/resolution.   Bills are also pending in:  Illinois, New York State, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington State.

In Congress a homeless hate crimes statistics reporting bill has been introduced in the both the U.S. House (H.R. 3419). and Senate (S. 1765).   The House bill has 13 co-sponsors and the Senate bill has 12 co-sponsors.

Show your support and sign our petition at Change.org!

Tourism vs. Homelessness

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Criminalization

by Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

Each summer I notice how tourism and homelessness do not get along very well.

Rather than providing day and night shelter services during the summer months, tourist cites do their best to move out homeless out of visible downtown locations. Homeless people are seen as bad for both tourism and economic development.

I been struck recently by the number of anti-homeless laws being proposed/implemented.

In Citrus Heights, CA the City Council is expected to pass an anti-panhandling law this week.

Salt Lake City is also heading down the same path.

And in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, FL is considering ordinances restricting panhandling in certain locations and against aggressive panhandling.

And on the East Coast, Virginia Beach has found its solution by installing Donation Meters as a way to discourage panhandling. The monies collected will go to the middle man—that being agencies serving the homeless. If you donate a $1,000, your individual or corporate name will be affixed to the Meter.

We have been documenting this trend for many years and have produced five criminalization of homelessness reports this past decade complete with a bi-annual ranking of the meanest cities. See Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. July 2009 for our most recent findings.

These tried and failed ordinances have not stopped panhandllng or ended homelessness.

The musings of a Hunger Fellow

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Criminalization, Speakers' Bureau

Steph Whitaker has been with NCH for the past 5 months as the Bill Emerson Hunger Fellow. Her time here has been invaluable, taking the lead to pull together our Criminalization and Hate Crimes reports.
Below she reflects on her time in Washington…

As my time wraps up here at NCH, I realize that I’ve encountered many unique experiences. I’m not entirely sure where 3 out of my 5 months went… but I imagine that means they were well spent.

Top 5 things I’ll miss about NCH:

5. Speaking engagements with the Speakers Bureau: it’s really great to witness the “ah-ha” moment of others when they finally realize that homeless people are not just a stereotype. An added bonus is that its fun to get to know the speakers and their quirks.

4. Laid back atmosphere and entertaining co-workers: it’s easy to focus on your work when you don’t have to worry about office politics and whether or not your belt is accurately coordinated with your shoes… or in my case if your earrings are too big and loud. It always helps to have friendly banter and people you know you can go to for help when things get confusing. They also make great company for #3.

3. POTLUCKS! Must I really elaborate? These are the best goodbye anyone could get, going out with a party and pasta salad is far more exciting than a handshake and a fancy dinner.

2. Civil Rights: Working on the Criminalization Report (documenting all cases that make it illegal to be homeless) and the Hate Crimes Report (violent acts committed against homeless people for no logical reason) have really given me insight into the problems faced by homeless people every day.

1. Advocacy WITH homeless people: I think many social movements have a tendency to forget who they advocate for. When you lose track of the who, its easier to forget why, and even how to help. Its so much better with the words and advice from individuals who are or have experienced a problem.

Just as a wrap up, I plan to return to my home in Kentucky and hope to use my skills and experiences to educate others and advocate for change. My current plan of action is to return to school in the spring to work towards getting a M.A. in Public Health.

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