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Posts Tagged ‘Criminalization’

20 Years of Hate

Written by admin on . Posted in Press Releases

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. 

Criminalizing poverty during a public health crisis

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

By Annie Leomporra

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out with their recommendation on how to address homeless encampments during the COVID pandemic. The CDC statement read that

… if individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living in encampments to remain where they are. Encourage people living in encampments to increase space between people and provide hygiene resources in accordance with the Interim Guidance for People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness

Image by Western Regional Advocacy Project

For advocates and people experiencing homelessness, this was an exciting statement that spoke to what we all know to be the truth, that homelessness is a public health emergency and that sweeps exacerbate health risks for those living outdoors. The CDC recommended providing access to clean water, hand washing stations, bathrooms, and regular trash pick up for people living outdoors. We thought maybe this would be an opportunity for communities across this country to re-think encampment sweeps, and the criminalization of homelessness. For a little while, in many communities, that is what happened. 

Meanwhile, due to funding cuts and social distancing restrictions, massive congregate shelters had to downsize their occupancy. Some people got transferred to hotels/motels or other services while others went outdoors. Further, as the pandemic economic downturn started to cause real hardship, more folks were forced to seek emergency housing assistance. With shelters at capacity, more people were forced outdoors and after just a few short months, municipalities across this country resumed encampment sweeps, going against CDC guidelines. 

Encampment sweeps aren’t the only thing that continued, the criminalization of ‘quality of life crimes’ came back in full force. In Hawaii, the Civil Beat, reported that the city of Honolulu received $38 million in CARES Act, and the Honolulu Police Department received at least $16 million of that for overtime pay. This overtime pay is suppose to be used to enforce they current mayor’s pandemic rules, however those who were most cited happened to be people experiencing homelessness.

One man has been cited nearly 100 times since March for 199 supposedly pandemic related violations. He has also received 37 tickets for quality of life crimes. Once someone receives a citation they are required to appear in court. A missed court appearance can turn into a bench warrant and lead into an arrest. In citing people experiencing homelessness for little else than not having anywhere to quarantine or social distance, the city of Honolulu not only is being incredibly cruel, but it is creating a dangerous situation for health of the entire community. 

The National Coalition for the Homeless urges localities put into practice the CDC guidelines on unsheltered homeless, and protect this vulnerable population from unnecessary risk of COVID infection, especially as the weather turns cold. We also demand that cities and states end of the practice of criminalizing poverty and homelessness!

Black Lives Matter

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Our Nation and the World are fearful of the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our hearts go out to George Floyd, his loved ones and all of us who are hurting right now. The massive protests that are taking place across the globe, are revealing years of pent-up frustration with racism and inequality. The militarization of policing in the United States and the repeated acts of violence against people of color by the police, creates a combustible threat—one that strikes at the very foundations of our democracy.

NCH stands in solidarity with those in America who are not satisfied with a society that fails to denounce the structural racism that plagues our nation.  As many of us watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered right in front of our eyes, or Ahmaud Arbery, who was hunted down and murdered on video, or Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed in her own home, we are reminded of many more precious lives taken by the hands of law enforcement – those who are trusted to protect us.

Repeatedly, we hear anguished cries as one more black or brown person takes their last breath, too soon. We are reminded of the reality that until we address structural racism in this country, these horrendous images will continue as nightmares in a never-ending loop.

As we battle multiple crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, the senseless death of yet another black man at the hands of law enforcement, and an attack on our civil liberties, we pray for everyone’s safety and health. We must remain vigilant stewards in hopes of an America and World filled with peace, equality, and justice for all.

Donald Whitehead
Board President
National Coalition for the Homeless

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