Did you know…

Posted on March 16, 2010

…those experiencing homelessness are often victims of violent crimes.

In 2009 the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) published a report titled Hate Crimes and Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness. The report tracked violent acts against those experiencing homelessness ranging from beatings and assault to rape and even murder.

According to the report: “From 1999 through 2008, there have been 880 [reported] acts of violence committed by housed individuals, resulting in 244 deaths of homeless people and 636 victims of non-lethal violence in 267 cities from 46 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.”

In 2008 alone, there were 106 total reported acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness. Twenty-seven of the attacks ended in the death of the person experiencing homelessness. Of the 79 non-lethal attacks, nine were rapes, eight were shootings and three were people experiencing homelessness being set on fire.

In 2008, Time magazine covered the story of John McGraham, a man who, while experiencing homelessness, was set on fire and burned to death on the streets of Los Angeles. The article is called Violence Against the Homeless: Is It a Hate Crime? 

Most would say, “Of course it’s a hate crime!”

But as defined by most states, violence against the homeless is not a hate crime. A “hate crime” is defined as any of various crimes including assault or defacement of property when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group based on race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. Violence against people experiencing homelessness is not categorized as a hate crime because homelessness is considered to be a temporary circumstance.

In 2009, The New York Times published an article entitled Attacks on Homeless Bring Push on Hate Crime Laws. At that time, Maryland, along with the District of Columbia, was the only state to expand its hate-crime law to add stiffer penalties for attacks on the homeless, with five other states contemplating similar legislation.

The NCH report is just one way to raise awareness about violence against those experiencing homelessness. For ways that you can help, read NCH’s “Recommendations for Action” here.

What do you think? Should violence against those experiencing homelessness by housed individuals be considered a hate crime?

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