Violent Crimes Against Homeless People on the Rise
Advocates fault lack of affordable housing, public attitudes
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Housing
Washington, DC, April 29, 2008 - Today the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) released the 2007 numbers on the epidemic of hate crimes and violent attacks against homeless Americans. The numbers are part of a new report entitled Hate, Violence, And Death on Main Street USA, 2007.
Key findings include:
"Those experiencing homelessness are often ignored or misunderstood by society. If these brutal attacks were committed against any other religious or minority group to the same degree, there would be a national outcry and call for governmental action," said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of NCH. "We must respond to this dehumanization and protect homeless persons against hate crimes."
- The total number of attacks rose by 13% from 2006 to 2007 - from 142 to 160 attacks.
- The number of fatal attacks rose by 40% from 2006 to 2007 - from 20 to 28 deaths.
- 64% of the attacks were committed by youths aged 13-19; two attackers were just 10 years old.
The 44% of homeless people who are unsheltered are the most vulnerable to these attacks. Because crimes committed against homeless persons often go unreported, the actual numbers of non-lethal attacks may be much higher. While the motive for an attack is often unclear, some of the attackers said they committed the crime out of "boredom," or for a "thrill" or "fun."
"Young men see the way we treat homeless people - criminalizing them, shoving them out of sight - and they get a message: these people are less than human, and it is OK to attack them," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of NLCHP. "If we want to stop these attacks, we need to send a clear message that homeless people have the same human rights as everyone else."
The report also details ways cities, states, and the federal government can act to solve the crisis of anti-homeless violence. "The bottom line is, people need to be housed," said David Pirtle, a formerly homeless victim of violence and NCH Board member. "If the federal government adequately funds permanent affordable housing, fewer people will be on the street, and fewer men and women will be attacked."
There also needs to be action at the local level. "Cities often focus on cracking down on panhandling or sleeping outside as a way to push homeless people out of sight," said NLCHP Civil Rights Program Director Tulin Ozdeger. "These numbers show the need for a different response - training police to help protect homeless people and deliver needed services, not to lock them up in jail."
Click here to download a copy of the report.
For more information on the report contact NLCHP executive director Maria Foscarinis (Mfoscarinis@nlchp.org, 202/638-2535) or NCH acting executive director Michael Stoops (Mstoops@nationalhomeless.org, 202/462-4822).
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty's mission is to prevent and end homelessness by serving as the legal arm of the nationwide movement to end homelessness. To achieve its mission, NLCHP pursues three main strategies: impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education.
The National Coalition for the Homeless' mission is to end homelessness and poverty. NCH seeks to accomplish our mission through policy advocacy, public education, research, community organizing, and empowering the homeless population.
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