Friday, November 21, 2008

NCH Recommendations Re: Homeless Hate Crimes Legislation

NCH Public PolicyRecommendations: Reduce violent crime against homeless people by including them as a protected class under federal hate crimes statutes.

The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) HCSA requires the U.S. Department of Justice to chart information from law enforcement agencies on any crime classified as a “hate crime.” They are required to publish an annual report that summarizes their findings .

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 would include homeless persons as a protected class so that acts of violence that target persons that are without housing would be classified as a hate crime.

NCH and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) have issued an annual report on hate crimes and homelessness since 1999, . The most recent hate crimes report, Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street U.S.A., can be found @

A unique brand of emotional and psychological impact accompanies acts of violence targeted because of a persons race or economic status. This impact affects not only the individuals that have been victimized but extends throughout the community. Priority ty response should be initiated to minimize the damage done by these hate crimes. Hate crimes cause damage beyond physical and monetary impact. They often intimidate other members of the victim's community. Entire segments of our population are left with feelings of isolation, vulnerability and abandonment.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act (H.R. 2216) and the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Enforcement Act (H.R. 2217) in 2007. Co-sponsors are being sought to establish a base of support for action on them either as independent legislation or as provisions within larger hate crimes measures.

Over national, state, and local 150 organizations have endorsed H.R. 2216, including the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, NAACP, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, United Methodist Church General Board on Church and Society, and Southern Poverty Law Center.

NCH Reasons to Work Towards Enacting this Legislation:

Hate crime and violence against people experiencing homelessness has become widespread. In 2006 alone, the number of attacks against homeless people rose by 65 percent over the prior year.

Between 1999 and 2007, over 770 violent acts against homeless individuals were documented by advocacy organizations (despite the absence of uniform law enforcement reporting).

These attacks range from beatings with golf clubs to the setting a man on fire while sleeping. Victims have included men and women, veterans, children as young as four, youth, and elders.

Between 1999 and 2007, more fatal attacks have been documented against homeless individuals than in all legally-recognized hate crime categories combined. There were 85 homicides classified as hate crimes.

  • National Coalition for the Homeless Public Policy Recommendations Homeless Hate Crimes Legislation legally-defined hate crimes. Over that same period there were 217 deaths as a result of violent acts directed at homeless individuals.

Current hate crimes laws were passed before the phenomenon of homeless-victim hate crimes was well-documented. Now it is time to improve the tracking and enforcement systems already in place.

Homeless status should be added to hate crimes reporting and enforcement statutes so that law enforcement agencies would uniformly and consistently report hate crimes against homeless people and so that preventive and corrective actions could be taken accordingly.

For further information on the public policy recommendations of the National Coalition for the Homeless,

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