CALIFORNIA TOPS NATION IN HATE CRIMES AGAINST THE HOMELESS

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Gentrification
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Homeless man threatened with baseball bat - image courtesy of http://www.pinellashomeless.org

Since 1999, more than a thousand attacks against homeless individuals have occurred.

These attacks occurred in cities throughout our country in forty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

They know no boundaries and are not limited by coast, region, or state. These attacks have permeated every corner of our society, resulting in two hundred ninety-one deaths and seven hundred eighty-three non-lethal attacks including beating with golf clubs, rape, and setting a man on fire while sleeping.

The victims have endured humiliations both great and small and the injuries they sustained created not only physical pain and scars, but also the crippling effects of wounded self-esteem and dignity of the human spirit.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has published an annual report documenting hate crimes and violence against homeless individuals since 1999. This organizing manual is intended to supplement those reports and to help concerned citizens and advocates educate those around them on the issue of bias-motivated crimes against homeless individuals; it includes both information and resources for citizens and advocates.  To effectively address the problem of violence towards homeless people, it needs to become a priority of communities, media, and legislators.

Trends in Hate Crimes: The number of incidents collected by the National Coalition for the Homeless under-represent the actual count of crimes committed against homeless individuals. However, the eleven-year map shows that of the ones recorded, trends can still be identified.  The states with the most crimes against homeless people tend to be both in areas with warm climates and in areas where communities have taken measures to criminalize homelessness.

Both California and Florida are good case studies.  Their warm climates are conducive to outdoor living, and many cities in both states have enacted severe anti-camping, panhandling, anti-feeding, and other criminalization of homelessness laws.  Many of the cities mentioned in NCH’s bi-annual criminalization report are also cities where hate crimes against homeless individuals have occurred.

In fact, seven of the ten meanest cities identified in Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness were cities in Florida and California. These states are also the ones with the highest number of bias motivated crimes against homeless individuals.

When communities criminalize homelessness, they send the message that homeless people do not matter and are not welcome in the community.  In addition to criminalization measures, the media is another source of negative messages about homeless people. Young men are most receptive to many of the exploitative, hateful messages. Accordingly, young men make up the majority of accused or convicted perpetrators of homeless hate crimes.

To see more info. including maps and statistics go here:  http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/hatecrimes/hatecrimesmanual10.pdf

More info. on violence against the homeless here: http://uspoverty.change.org/blog/category/violence_against_the_homeless

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