Group Argues That Crimes Against The Homeless Should Be Hate Crime
Advocates for the homeless say that attacks on the visibly homeless may not be on the rise, but they are getting worse. California and Florida share a dubious distinction among the states by being home to the most attacks on the homeless. California had 30 and Florida had 22. Other states trail in the single digits. The statistics have been kept since 1999. Advocates for the homeless say that the homeless are being attacked because of who they are, and that makes it a hate crime. These advocates say that while the attacks may be on the rise, they are getting more violent and the offenders are getting younger. Younger offenders greater intensity of crimes.
Attacks On The Homeless By The Young
Michael Stoops, Executive Director for the National Coalition of the Homeless, says the economic downturn is making the homeless more visible. In California, anti-vagrancy laws make it difficult for the homeless in California to gather in parks. Stoops tells the Sacramento Bee:
“There’s just absolutely no place in California you can go without coming upon a visible homeless population unless you’re in the parks.” He also says, “attacks are getting more serious, with more bodily harm…People think they can hurt a homeless person because no one will care, and they won’t fight back.”
The homeless are also somewhat wary of dealing with police because of anti-vagrancy laws. The very homelessness that makes them vulnerable could put them in violation of the law. The enforcement of anti-vagrancy laws has been stepped up in recent years.
The attacks in California vary in type and intensity. Some of the attacks include being pelted with objects to burnings. One man was blinded by young people with a paintball gun. These attacks are often perpetrated by people in their 20s and younger. Some of the attacks have even been filmed by the attacker. Advocates say that homeless are entitled to special protection because of their vulnerability.
Making Attacks On The Homeless A Hate Crime
This past legislative session, US Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and Robert Wexler, of Florida both Democrats. The legislation would add homelessness as a category in keeping hate crimes statistics. The National Coalition for the Homeless says in a flier promoting the law:
“The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act is important legislation to monitor hate crimes against homeless people. Unfortunately, current legislation does not monitor crimes against people experiencing homelessness, a population group of victims that are also experiencing a pattern of intentional bias-based selection.”
The flier also asks people to report such crimes to their lawmakers.