Hate Crimes Report Issued by NCH

The National Coalition for the Homeless has recently published No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015. The report finds that over the last 17 years, at least 1,657 people experiencing homelessness have been victims of violent hate crimes, including 428 people who were murdered. In 2014-2015 alone, there were 192 documented violent hate crimes against homeless individuals, with 58 incidents being fatal. No Safe Street demonstrates a clear correlation between laws criminalizing homelessness and the increase of hate crimes against homeless people. California and Florida's cities have passed the most laws criminalizing homelessness in recent years, and also experienced the highest numbers of hate crimes against homeless individuals in 2014-2015. 

We've looked at the National Coalition's report and taken out the relevant information regarding anti-homeless hate crimes in Ohio. In the past 17 years, there have been 85 documented incidents of violence against people experiencing homelessness in Ohio, with 5 of those incidents occuring in 2014-2015. Ohio has some of the highest levels of hate crimes against homeless individuals, behind only California, Florida, and Texas. 

In Ohio:

Years

Number of Documented Incidents

1999-2015

85

2014-2015

5

 

Narratives of Hate Crimes against the Homeless in Ohio:

Columbus, Ohio

***September, 19th: “Carl Quiller, 19, is charged with murder after shooting three homeless people, killing one. He shot Carlos Aguilar, 48, in the arm, and Gertrude Hall, 51, in her face and back, before shooting and killing Thomas Henson, 63, who was sleeping in his truck. Quiller was arrested after making a call to 911, claiming he found Henson. During the call, he sounded like he was trying to save Henson’s life, saying, “Stay awake man…There’s a big hole in his pillow laying up against his head. So, I’d imagine he got shot in the head.” The police who found a gun and ammunition that matched those used in both crimes searched Quiller’s home. Quiller was also found to have had a violent crime history: at 13, he was arrested for assault, rape at 14, robbery at 15, and another assault at 16.”  

Dayton, Ohio

****October, 1st: “Earl Horn was on his way to a shelter when a pair of dogs viciously attacked him, and the owner took off and left him in the field. He was walking through the park when he noticed the two dogs, one brown and white, the other black, running through the field. He called to the owner and asked if the dogs were okay, but “before (he) knew it they charged (him)”… Horn was able to call 911 and ask for help. The dogs and owner are still unidentified.

****March, 7th: Ronald Baird, 51, was attacked by three teenage boys, 14, 15 and 17 years of age.”

Cincinnati, Ohio

****July 27th: Three individuals assaulted John Hensley, 49, with one of the assailants later stating that he committed the attack because he was bored. The attack happened, as Hensley was exiting a drop-in center and lasted for 15 minutes. A staff member of the drop-in center alerted police officers and all perpetrators were detained and charged with misdemeanor assault.

Zanesville, Ohio

****February 12th: Two homeless individuals were assaulted by Estep, 27. Estep faces ten years in prison after taking a plea bargain.

National Statistics:

History of NEOCH Civil Rights

For the entire history of the Coalition, staff have worked on protecting against municipal actions that target homeless people and the hate crimes that result when government singles out one group in our society.  We believe that there is a correlation between high numbers of hate crimes against homeless people and the cities in the United States that routinely pass laws directed at homeless people.  It is for this reason that we regularly oppose “quality of life” laws and targeted enforcement against homeless people for purely innocent behavior of attempting to live without housing.  Here is a summary of the NEOCH Civil Rights work:

Clements vs. Cleveland

The first attempt in the mid 1990s to stop police arresting and threatening arrest of homeless people for purely innocent behavior of sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk.  Police accused of driving homeless people to the outskirts of Cuyahoga County and dropping them off the bus line.  The City of Cleveland eventually settled with the four plaintiffs and basically blamed “rogue cops” for misinterpreting the directives issued from the administration.  Richard Clements passed away in New York this year.

Homeless Grapevine vs. City of Cleveland

The City felt that vendors of the street newspaper must buy a license before they could sell a paper on the sidewalks of Cleveland.  NEOCH won in the district court, but was reversed on appeal.  City tried to pass legislation to force vendors buy a license, but could not get the legislation through the City Council.  Vendors are currently free to sell the paper within the City of Cleveland with only an agency issued license, but City maintains right to regulate the sidewalk if the City Council can agree. 

Key vs. City of Cleveland

This was the second attempt to stop the sweeps of homeless people in Cleveland.  Police began ticketing homeless people around the holidays to encourage people to come Downtown to shop.  Police were willing to testify that this was City policy at the time because they did not want to be labelled as “going rogue.”  Cleveland settled the lawsuit in 2000 and we have posed the settlement on our website.  It basically states that the police will not arrest or threaten arrest anyone for purely innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, standing or eating on the sidewalk as long as they are not blocking access.  NEOCH tests this agreement every November to assure that it is still being followed (Appendix A). 

Stun Gun Attacks

In the early 2000s, there were young people who came to Cleveland from Youngstown and recorded themselves using a Taser stun gun to shock homeless people and film their reaction.  NEOCH pushed for harsh punishments for these three young people, and held a community meeting to talk about protection for vulnerable populations.

Homeless Exploitation Videos

There were major retailers in the United States online and in stores that were selling videos of homeless people fighting in exchange for change or alcohol.  NEOCH worked with the National Coalition for the Homeless to convince major retailers such as Best Buy and Target to stop selling these exploitation videos in their stores.  These were recorded by young people and collected together and then sold in many stores and online retailers.

Covenant to Serve Food

The City was concerned over the mess being created on Public Square by church groups feeding homeless people.  We worked with the new administration to avoid the City passing legislation that we would have had to challenge in court.  NEOCH worked out a “covenant” where the church groups would move off public square to a parking lot with trash and bathroom facilities and the City agreed to not introduce legislation.

The Right to Shelter

Since the founding of the Coalition, NEOCH has fought to assure that the shelters are accessible to everyone in need and at no time will the shelters turn people away over a lack of space.  For over 20 years we have had guaranteed access to shelter in Cleveland, and we have worked to improve the conditions at the shelters.  When the shelters are full, providers will transport people to a church or recreation center as an overflow site if the building capacity is reached.  We also support the development of an overnight drop in center similar to Metanoia for the entire year.

Voting Lawsuit Against the State of Ohio

NEOCH has filed suit against the State of Ohio and three Secretaries of State from 2005 through the present over voting procedures in the state.  Our concern was regarding the identification requirements and their impact on reducing turnout by low income, homeless and minority voters.  I have provided a series of depositions in this case.  In years 2006, 2008 and 2012, we had a settlement with the state to allow homeless people to use a social security number to have their ballot count if they voted in person.  This agreement was binding until 2014 when the state changed the law regarding the use of identification for provisional ballots.

Brian Davis

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Words of Comfort in the Face of Hate

President Obama referenced the Martin Luther King Jr. eulogy in Birmingham when offering words of comfort following the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. We are all shocked by the level of hate that visited a religious institution and killed 9 amazing people while practicing their religion just because of the color of their skin.  It was amazing to hear the families forgive the alleged shooter.  This massacre has shocked the consciousness of our society and we hope will lead to some positive changes.  I went back to the full eulogy and found comfort in King's words.

And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour (Yeah Well), we must not despair. (Yeah, Well) We must not become bitter (Yeah, That's right), nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. (Yeah, Yes) Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.

May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.

Here is the full speech.


We know that we have made huge advancements since King was leading the civil rights movement, but we still have a long way to go.  There is still racism; there is still the need for fair housing protections and civil rights protections for minority populations.  There is still a resentment of minority populations and fear of those who are different. Poverty and homelessness are disproportionately impacting minority populations.  We cannot being to solve these issues until we have a truth and reconciliation for the crimes and injustice of nearly 200 years of racism that is the foundation of the United States.  

Brian Davis

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Homelessness Updates

Did New Orleans really solve veteran's homelessness?  Media in the Big Easy have spent the past few weeks examining the proclamation by Mayor Landrieu that veteran's homelessness has been ended in New Orleans and found the program lacking.  There is always the problem of counting homeless people that makes it difficult to proclaim victory.  There is the problem of the varied definition of what is a  veteran that complicates the matter.  Are you a veteran after 2 months of service or 2 years of services? Then there is the problem that homeless people are so fluid and fall in and out of homelessness on a daily basis.  It is bold to make this proclamation, but until you end all homelessness it is impossible to declare victory with just one population. 

It is true that there are tons of veteran's resources available now. If you spent time in the military and were not dishonorably discharged, there is so much help available right now.  We really have all the tools at our disposal to end veteran's homelessness.  But there are a lot of hard core vets who have no contact with anyone and will be hard to reach.  It would be unnerving for a retired Marine corporal to be sitting in the library waiting for the rain to subside and read in the Times Picayune that your city had "solved" veterans homelessness while you struggled with PTSD and were bouncing around from family to living in a car.  The Marine is thinking once you solve a problem, you stop dedicating resources and staff, and move on to something else.  It would seem like you missed the train that will never come around again. 

Toledo Blade wrote about what homeless people do during the extreme cold.  This was an interesting story about the huge number of people who use the library as a drop in center.

Lakewood teens again spend the night outside in the cold to call attention to homelessness on the North Coast.  We have featured stories about previous groups from Lakewood Congregational church about their sleeping outside in the Street Chronicle.  We appreciate them calling attention to the plight of homeless people in the cold.

Bloomberg has a good article about why the President never talks about rent.   The same could be said about homelessness, and the president only mentioning homelessness when he is volunteering on a service day.  I think that the architect of modern homelessness, Ronald Reagan, was the last President who was forced to talk about solutions to homelessness.  But half the population rent from a landlord and state or federal elected office holders rarely talk about it.

The City of Cincinnati became the third city to enact a homeless hate crimes bill.  Cleveland has one of the laws, but it is rarely used.  Most of the time a hate crime is a felony and local laws do not address crimes of that severity.  The State of Ohio would need to pass legislation to include homeless people in the existing hate crimes statute to make it real.  It is good that the city is trying to do something about the attacks on homeless people and were willing to talk about these issues. 

Brian Davis

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Ohio News Updates

Cincinnati Councilman introduces a law to protect against hate crimes.  The article mentions that Cleveland has a hate crimes law, but it is a mere formality.  It only applies to misdemeanors and is a recommendation not a requirement. How many attacks on homeless people were ever misdemeanors?  It was a feel good piece of legislation.  The Cincinnati folks want something with more teeth to address a rise in attacks on homeless people in the Queen City. 

Additional state dollars given to the shelters in and around Cleveland.  In the face of three years of federal cuts backs and shelters that closed in 2014, there is a small amount of support from the state.  Emergency shelters have been starved for funds and these state dollars will not close the gap.  It will keep hope alive that more funds are coming, but it will not make up for the huge loss of public support shelters have faced since the downturn.  The trend in Washington is to fund expensive housing for the people who have been homeless the longest, veterans and young people.  Everyone else is out of luck trying to find help in the face of budget cuts.  In Cleveland this means nine months of overflow for families.  

US Conference of Mayors report released including a number of Ohio cities.  Take the data with a huge grain of salt.  They are typically just asking one guy at City Hall what they think about homelessness and hunger.  These guys call around to advocates, United Way or food programs and pull a figure out of the air.  They are typically based on nothing hard or solid and they vary throughout the country.  So, there is no way to compare Cleveland to Chicago or San Diego.  But they do have the bigger trends in our community dead on.  We are seeing huge increases in families and more people seeking help with food.   We are seeing more young people who are homeless because we are finally paying attention to this problem.  Despite the turn around, wages are still stagnant and people are then becoming homeless.  Affordable housing is still out of touch for many living in cities with huge waiting lists and housing being taken out of the inventory because of age.  So, pay attention to the message but ignore the numbers in the report.

Front Steps is rebranded name of Transitional Housing Inc.  The program started back in the 1980s when a bunch of nuns got together to fill a need for single women without a place to live.   They found an abandoned traveler's cheap motel that was slipping into the river as their home.   It featured 60 individual apartments for homeless women with a unique funding stream which was the brain child of a few near west politicians including Mary Rose Oakar.   It was owned by CMHA, but run by this non-profit organization and funded through the HUD Homeless Continuum and not the public housing funding.   It was funded as an innovative program before HUD was giving a regular allocation to each city to address homelessness.  The problem for many in the community was that those who got into the shelter then could transfer to a public housing unit so they were bypassing the waiting list.   In 2012, the program went through a strategic plan with the County staff and many others sitting in and offering suggestions.  It was decided by CMHA and the THI non-profit to move to permanent supportive housing model and away from transitional shelter.  This resulted in a huge cut to the homeless funding and an expansion to serve men.  They set up a special waiting list at CMHA and had to negotiate between three organizations to get people into the housing.  We will miss the transitional shelter in the community where every unit turns over about once a year to a program that is, well...permanent.  Housing programs typically only have a turn over rate of between 5 to 10 percent each year.  This only adds to the problem of single women trying to find a temporary shelter bed in the community.  We welcome more housing, but the cost is that people women have a harder time finding a short term place for their housing emergencies. 

Brian Davis

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Ft. Lauderdale: Center of Hate Toward the Poor

Ft. Lauderdale officials are taking heat world wide for the arrest of a 90 year old chef and two religious leaders for the crime of feeding low income and homeless people.  They approved a series of anti-homeless measures with the most prominent outlawing the serving of food outside without a permit.  Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted the City last night mocked the Mayor for arresting this "perp", Arnold Abbott, for carrying the dangerous weapon of food.

  "So clearly he knows what Jesus said in Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and--look out! The cops are here! Hide the Loaves and Fishes!' And I am glad...they eventually caught up with him."

The National Coalition for the Homeless Sent a letter to the Mayor asking for a re-evaluation of the legislation. 

[Full Disclosure:  I helped in the drafting of the NCH letter.] Most are focusing on the anti-feeding law and that is appropriate, but there are four other laws including the prohibition against a homeless person to sit down in the public space that are just as offensive.   These laws go back to the 1990s when cities were using law enforcement to try to "solve" homelessness.  They have failed and in fact, most cities found it only increased the number of homeless people.  Repeatedly ticketing homeless people make them unemployable and unable to engage a lease for housing.  We have also seen the correlation between a rise in hate crimes directed at homeless people when cities begin to pass laws directed at those without housing.  Ft. Lauderdale, by preventing people from being able to eat, goes to the front of the line in legislating hate against a fragile population.

Brian Davis

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By the way if you want to express your concern over these extreme laws here is the Mayor's e-mail: jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov.  Send us a copy of the e-mail if you decide to write neoch (at) neoch (dot) org. 

CWRU Students Sue City of Akron over Homeless Policies

The City of Akron has never been good about taking care of homeless people.  They have the worst laws for panhandlers in the State of Ohio.  They have very few shelter options and they do not guarantee access to a shelter bed.  This means that if the shelters are full, homeless people must sleep on the streets.  Last week, we found out from a group of CWRU student law students that Akron Police were moving homeless people out and then throwing away their valuables. 

Eleven homeless people living outside in Akron allege that the Akron Police were stealing and discarding valuables from homeless people.  The lawsuit claims that the Akron Police under the direction of City officials would raid their campsites and then throw away tents, clothing, medicine directly to the City landfill.

The Akron Police claim that they did give proper notice and that most of the items taken were drug paraphernalia and other contraband.  According to the Plain Dealer, the police claim that they acted properly.  Personal property is held in high regard in the State of Ohio, and so government has to go to great lengths to hold personal property in a secure manner.  A person can go to prison for 25 years and government must keep their property safe and return it to them upon release.  To dispose of forgotten property governments must issue a public notice and provide sufficient time to retrieve these items.  A landlord must ask the court to dispose of a tenant's belongings if they disappear.  The lawsuit claims that the City government did not secure their belongings after confiscating them, and the personal property was taken directly to the trash. 

In nearly every case going through the courts, when a City throws away the belongings of homeless people they have to pay. I know that in Miami, Chicago and a number of cities in California were all forced to compensate homeless people for the loss of their valuables.  I can't see how this is going to end any differently for the City of Akron.  In Cleveland, we fought this all through the 1990s with settlements that provided homeless people $3,000 for picking them up and dumping them on the outskirts of town, and then we settled on an agreement between the City and homeless people in 2000 in a case called Key vs. City of Cleveland that police will not harrass homeless people living outside for purely innocent behavior.

The bigger issue for residents of Akron is that when cities start targeting homeless people we see an increase in hate crimes against the population.  When government gives the go-ahead to treat homeless people as lesser citizens, there are disturbed people who take that signal as open season on torturing, attacking and becoming violent with fragile people living outside.  Unfortunately, these are mostly young people who terrorize people living under bridges or in abandoned property.  We know that these laws and police sweeps lead to feelings of betrayal and abandonment by the population and it only keeps people homeless for a longer period of time.  This will not reduce the population, but will do the opposite.  We explore what Akron should do to reduce the number of people sleeping outside in a future post.

Brian Davis

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Post Script:  The CWRU Observer did a good summary of the case published this last week.  (One note, Brian is no longer Executive Director of NEOCH.  He is a community organizer, but the story is still sound.)

Teen Charged with Murder of Homeless Person in Columbus

On September 22, a 19 year old, Carl Quiller was charged with shooting and killing one homeless person and suspected of shooting two others.  Thomas Henson, 63, was sleeping in the bed of his pickup truck in a shopping center parking lot, and was fatally shot in the head .  Investigators believe that the shooting of two homeless individuals on Thursday late in the evening of September 18 in a field were done by the same individual. 

Quiller had made the 9-1-1 call seeking help for Henson early Saturday morning.  After searching his house, they found the weapon underneath his mattress.  Quiller told police that he hid the gun, but someone else did the shooting.  The suspect is being held on $3 million bond. The other two homeless individuals were shot in the middle of the night, and are recovering in the hospital. 

In 2013, State Representative from Lakewood, Nicki Antonio introduced a hate crimes bill to protect lesbian, gay and transgender individuals after an attack that took place outside a bar in Cleveland in which the attackers were using gay-slurs.   We will ask Rep. Antonio to add homeless people to her bill after this attack in Columbus.  It is obvious that a predator was out looking for homeless people for two nights in a row looking to hurt and kill people who are living outside without the security of a front door. 

Brian Davis

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Hate Crimes in Ohio

The National Coalition for the Homeless issued a report in June on hate crimes against homeless people in America.  The report is entitled "Vulnerable to Hate" and is available on the front of their website.  We pulled out the specific incidents in Ohio below, but first a few facts from the report:

  • 23% increase in the number of hate crimes in the report in 2013 when compared to 1999.
  • There were 109 attacks in 2013 documented in the report.
  • 18 of the 2013 attacks resulted in the death of the homeless victim.
  • 85% of the perpetrators were under 30 years old.
  • 93% of the perpetrators were male.
  • 65% of the victims were over 40 years old
  • 90% of the victims were male.
  • Ohio has seen 80 attacks since 1999 putting the state in the top 5 in the United States.
  • There were seven attacks documented in Ohio with four detailed below

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton homeless man stabbed to death

Oct. 10 – Daniel Mooty, a 51-year-old homeless man, was found dead behind a vacant house after being stabbed by 27-year-old Curtis R. Gray. Police responded to a call they received about a man screaming when they arrived on the scene, they witnessed the suspect standing over Mooty’s body. The murder weapon, a knife, was found at the scene. Gray was charged with give felony counts and $500,000 bail.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Homeless man assaulted after talking with suspects

Robert Warden, a 48-year-old homeless man living at a homeless camp in Cincinnati was approached by two young men. They sat and talked with him before striking him in the head with a calf prod “He hit me eight more times. I was blocking with my arms and kicking him and stuff.” A fellow homeless man took out his phone, which caused the two students from the University of Cincinnati to flee. The homeless man did not seek treatment at the hospital or file a report with police.

Canton, Ohio

Homeless man assaulted

January 13 – Jason P. Doty, 34, was found lying in the roadway with a visual wound on his head by Canton city police officers. The local hospital caught video surveillance footage of the attack and of the assailants running away. Doty had been punched several times and hit his head on the ground. He was transported to the nearest medical center. Officers believe he may have been assaulted by two males. Investigators have no further leads.

Newark, Ohio

Gang members beat up homeless man

April 6, 16, 26 – A 47-year-old homeless man was beaten multiple times by gang members under the Route 16 overpass. Members of the Ohio Boyz gang planned these attacks. The victim suffered severe injuries including several broken bones. Dustin Nelson, 25, one of the perpetrators faces 8 years in prison for assault and participation in a gang that commits criminal activities.

Brian Davis

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National News Updates

Another story in Talk Poverty about the deplorable DC shelter for families. This link is a good overview of the closure of the previous family shelter and how the city was forced to open a bigger shelter at the abandoned hospital.  We wrote about the child who was taken from the shelter in March and has not been seen since. Sharon Neuman Murphy of Mary's House penned a nice overview of the problem and how politicians are still ignoring homeless families in DC.  We are also seeing a lack of options for families in Cleveland with huge numbers showing up for help and having no where to go.  This story shows the value of shelter regulations in a community.

Frustrated with inaction on the problem of homelessness, a neighborhood NIMBY advocate in DC attacked a homeless person and was arrested.  In the nation's capital in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, one restaurant worker was arrested for violence directed at a homeless person. The attacker had led an effort to stop the construction of an apartment in the neighborhood.  Now he was arrested for spraying a homeless person, screaming at a homeless guy and then throwing his stuff in the streets.  The attacker works at a local bar.  I have to wonder who is more of a problem for the Dupont Circle neighborhood his intoxicated customers later at night or homeless people?

Michelle Obama followed up her speech at the National Alliance to End Homelessness with an op-ed for the McClatchey newspapers. It was a good overview of the problem and it is hard to disagree that we should not honor these veterans by making sure that they do not become homeless.   But these guys volunteered to put their country first by joining the military, and so wouldn't they want the United States to solve homelessness for everyone and not just veterans?  These guys and gals who were willing to sacrifice their life for their country would say that there should not be one homeless kid in the richest country on the planet.  I think that most of these veterans would say, "No, I will give up my spot on the housing waiting list for the Mom who is working two jobs and taking care of her two kids." 

Huffington Post had a video of a homeless guy watching his shelter being destroyed by the police.  This is part of a documentary called "Destiny Bridge" about homeless tent cities and the pastor that cares for a group of people who live in the woods. 

The Cincinnati Coalition is working to expand the Ohio hate crimes law to include homeless people in response to another attack in the Queen city. Cincinnati has always been the one of the least friendly cities in Ohio toward homeless people. This follows an attack on a homeless guy, John Hensley, in the Over the Rhine neighborhood.  Three men were arrested for the attack. Cincinnati Coalition director, Josh Spring, would like to see prosecutors have the option of moving up the charge if they find the individuals went after a fragile and vulnerable population.  NEOCH supports this effort and has unsuccessfully tried to convince legislators of the need for additional protections for homeless people. 

New Mexico intends to try and add homeless people to the Hate Crimes legislation.  This failed in 2013, but one state legislator intends to try again.  The Albuquerque Police were videotaped killing a homeless guy who was in the process of giving himself up that made national news.  Hopefully, with all the bad news coming out of Albuquerque and police aggression will move this legislation forward this time.

The worst news of the day was the killing of Thomas Trent by a 12 year old boy in (of course) violent Florida--the most dangerous state in the union for homeless people. I could only find a couple of references to this story which seemed strange.  This should be a national news story about how we have cast a group of people out of our society and they have become prey for children.  54 year old Thomas Trent was shot to death at 2 a.m. behind a group of stores, and the police used surveillance video to track down the suspect. 

Trent's sister told the Florida Times-Union that her brother was kind and intelligent, and had just been released from the hospital when he was killed. He'd suffered from health problems related to alcoholism, she told the paper.

Brian Davis

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Arsonists Arrested for Starting Fires in Flats

Two men and a woman who were homeless were arrested early this morning in connection with the fires of homeless encampments.  This is unbelievable and terribly sad that three people who are homeless and living out of a tent would set fires to their own tens and those of others.  The police believe that the fires set this last week were intentional in order to get sympathy and three nights that a local charity paid for a motel stay.  Let it never be said that most homeless people want to sleep outside in a tent.  This group was willing to set their own tents on fire and endanger others for three nights in a motel.  They risked going to jail to get a short time off the streets. 

We know that one of the guys was branded for life as a sexually based offender, and so he would have a nearly impossible time finding housing.  Please don't leap to the conclusion that all homeless people are criminals.  Some are fragile mentally, some are criminals and some are just looking for work.  Any collection of over 4,000 people (the number of people homeless in Cleveland on any given night) will have criminals, con artists, and mentally ill people as members of the group.  We can't paint the whole group based on the actions of a few.

Everyone was on edge after two fires this week, and we hope that these arrests put an end to these fires.  We were not sure if these were outsiders coming down to the sites out of hate or was this a personal grudge.  We got out the word to try to keep people safe.  If these three did what the police are alleging, we hope that they are prosecuted.  We know that many valuables and important documents were destroyed in a previous fire.  We know a cat was killed at one of the other encampments.  We know these fires terrorized the individuals living rough in Cleveland.  We know that people were relocating to safer and less visible places.  This make it more difficult to provide services or housing to people who are hiding from the world.  We will work with those outside to rebuild trust and peace of mind.

Brian Davis

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Met with Cleveland Police Regarding the Attacks on the Camps

We had a meeting with many outreach workers and volunteers along with some of the victims of the fires down in the Flats and the Cleveland Police Department.  The new Commander of the Second District Thomas Stacho and Officer Petcak from the Downtown unit attended the meeting to hear our concerns that someone was targeting homeless people by burning down their campsites.  We heard of three active sites that were destroyed and a couple of abandoned camps.  This started the weekend of March 21 and continued last Friday March 28.   On Friday evening between 4 pm to 5 p.m.  there were a series of fires at the camps while they were away getting food.  Then when the residents went inside to get out of the cold in the middle of the night the criminals came back and torched more camps. 

NEOCH and other outreach teams are concerned that this is a hate crime, and will only get worse with more people living outside over the summer.  The Police assured us that they would follow up and would investigate these concerns.  They were going to talk to some of the business owners in the area, construction workers, and the Fire Department that responded. They were going to report back to us after interviewing some of the spectators down there and a few people identified by the victims as suspicious as well as others who go down along the river.  

The stroller lady was scared and reported all her losses including the death of one of her cats.  She was angry about many past beefs with many different people in the community.  She gets picked on so much it is hard to get her to focus on this attack and not the previous threats against her camp.  She was also frustrated that no one takes her complaints seriously for the last five years including the police.   Rick has relocated and is keeping his new location quiet.  He talked about the library books, clothing, sleeping bags and food that he lost.  He was stoic but said he did not understand these attacks.  Rick stays away from most people and does not bother anyone.  He interacts with the volunteers from Labre, but otherwise stays by himself.  He had no theories for who could have done this, because there was no threats or warning.  Rick did say that someone had stolen from him and had messed up his camp two weeks ago, but was not sure if this was related. 

The outreach teams will increase interaction with the people staying outside.  We have asked the residents to set up a "neighborhood watch" type program.  The police agreed to keep an eye out during their patrols.   We hope that they are able to find these domestic terrorists who burnt down these campsites and intentially destroyed the tents and all their possessions of these people who largely try to avoid the spotlight.

Brian Davis

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Hate Crimes Over the Weekend

The Homeless Stroller Lady is famous in Cleveland.  You have probably seen her on a bus or walking around downtown, and some have even called the police worried that she has a baby in the stroller (she does not).   This weekend her campsite and two others were attacked in the Flats.  There were three or four tents set on fire over the weekend.  This is a terrifying prospect with all those flamable blankets lining the tents. 

The Stroller Lady had gone to the president of a local construction company and received written permission to take scrap wood from the construction site for her campsite.  This only made her campsite even more flamable.  We are working with city officials to better protect these individuals as we look for appropriate housing for them.  We hope to set up a meeting between the police or fire department and these individuals to increase patrols and get information about an investigation into this hate crime. 

Brian Davis

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Awful News Out of Orange County California

Ron Thomas and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (photo by the Gaurdian)In 2011, two Fullerton California police officers beat to death a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas, 37.  The two officers were acquitted of all charges on Monday January 13 in an Orange County court room.  Thomas's mother was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, "Part of me died that night...They got away with it."  Kelly's father, Ron, was a retired police officer who was devestated by his son's death especially with the release of the security videotape from a nearby building of the encounter with the police on that July evening.  (It is on the internet, but we will not provide a link. It is too gruesome to watch).

The jury deliberated for eight hours after the three week trial and acquitted the two officers on second degree murder charges for Officer Manual Ramos as well as involuntary manslaughter charges.  Officer Jay Cicinelli was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the criminal trial.  Thomas was beaten at the bus depot in Fullerton after he did not comply with former officer Ramos demand to sit on the curb.  The ten minute confrontation between the heavily armed police officers and the unarmed Thomas left him bloodied with broken bones and his face unrecognizable.  He was hit with a baton, tasered four times, punched, hit in the face with the butt of the Taser, pinned to the ground and kneed in the head.   Ramos put on latex gloves before the attack and told Thomas that he was going to beat him.  Thomas pled for his life during the attack, apologized, and then cried and called for his dad's help repeatedly.  All this was caught on tape and witnessed by numerous onlookers.   The pictures of Kelly Thomas in the hospital after his beating are gruesome and were posted on the internet.  Thomas died in the hospital five days later. 

With all this evidence, a jury decided that these two officers were not guilty of the charges.  The lawyers representing the officers focused on Thomas's previous acts of aggression that were a part of his mental illness.   They also claimed that Thomas kept fighting and the officers had to call for backup five times.  The videotape showed that the officers continued the beating even after Thomas went limp.  The defense team stressed that the officers were only doing their jobs.  After the verdict was announced the district attorney dismissed the charges against the third officer who was waiting trial on lesser charges.  

The family could now file a civil case against the officers for wrongful death and civil rights violations.  The FBI could re-open their investigation, which was stopped when the county prosecutor filed charges.   We are going to ask national mental health and homeless groups to push Attorney General Eric Holder to open a civil rights investigation into this case.  It is unbelievable that anyone viewing the disturbing video tape could not conclude that these officers prepared for an assault on Kelly Thomas and did not stop his beating until he had sustained injuries that led to his death.  We are all shocked that there will be no criminal charges against these police officers. 

Brian Davis

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Ohio Safer for Homeless People in 2012

William Gilmore reading the names at the 2011 Homeless Memorial DayIn the new report issued by the National Coalition for the Homeless they rank the states according to how dangerous they are for homeless people.  Ohio has been in the top 5 for dangerous states for the past 10 years.  Typically, we have had seven to ten attacks with one or two resulting in death.  Cleveland has seen rock attacks, stun gun attacks, rapes and bricks thrown from cars.  Most of the attacks over the last 14 years took place in Cincinnati and the Dayton area.  It is always strange how cities with a great deal of hostility toward homeless programs and people always are at the top of the list of hate crimes directed at the poor. 

50% of the perpetrators of these attacks were under 20 years old.  38% of those who are attacked are older than 50 years of age.  There were a total of 88 crimes against homeless people documented by police or advocates in communities throughout the United States.  Florida with twice as many attacks as the nearest state of California was number one again this year in hate crimes.   There were 15 attacks that resulted in the death of the individual including the serial killer in California who was targeting homeless people in 2012.  

The non-lethal attacks in Ohio included a rape of a teenager in Columbus Ohio in December 2012.  In May 2012, a group of Toledo teenagers beat a homeless person named Todd Swint.  There are resources in the back including local contacts and updates on the movement to pass a homeless bill of rights in states throughout the United States.  Check out the report and support the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Brian Davis

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National Coalition Releases Hate Crimes Report

New Hate Crimes report released

Senseless Violence: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence against the Homeless in 2012 documents the known cases of violence against homeless individuals in 2012. The report includes descriptions of the cases as well as recommendations to help prevent violence against homeless individuals.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has been tracking hate crimes against homeless individuals since 1999. This year’s report only shows a slight improvement in the number of lethal attacks. In 2012 alone, of the 88 attacks, 18 resulted in deaths. A majority of the perpetrators this past year were young men under 30, and the victims were primarily males over the age of 40.

Some of the most horrific cases include a serial killer targeting the homeless population of southern California because he viewed it as a public service, teens killing a homeless man over one dollar, and a homeless woman set on fire who suffered second and third-degree burns over 20% of her body.

“This violence is prompted by a profound lack of empathy for fellow human beings, the same moral failure that allows our society to tolerate the larger tragedy of homelessness,” said Jerry Jones, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Homeless people deserve our help and protection. These attacks are a shocking failure in our society’s obligations toward the most vulnerable among us.”

In many cases, homeless persons are targeted for these attacks simply because they are without housing. The National Coalition for the Homeless advocates for the inclusion of homelessness as a protected class in state and federal hate crimes legislation.

Read the full report.

From National Coalition for the Homeless Media Release

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NCH Announces 2012 Hate Crimes Report

2011 was one of the most dangerous years for homeless people in the United States according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. The National Homeless Hate Crimes report was issued this last week. 

  • 1,289 reported acts of bias motivated violence have been committed against homeless
    individuals between 1999-2011.
  • 339 homeless individuals lost their lives as a result of the attacks.
  • Reported violence has occurred in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC

The violence continues, and with thirty-two known deaths, 2011 ranks in the top-five deadliest years for attacks on homeless people over the past thirteen years, and with one hundred and five attacks, ranks as the sixth most violent year since NCH began tracking the violence in 1999. NCH has found startling data in the number and severity of attacks. However, the reports also acknowledge that since the homeless community is treated so poorly in our society, many more attacks go unreported. Hate crimes against the homeless community is a growing wave in need of public attention.

Ohio was again identified as the third most violent state in the United States behind California and Washington state.  One bright spot was that after many years of leading the national Florida has fallen out of the top five.  There were 32 attacks that led to the death of a homeless person.  Ohio was listed as the fourth most dangerous state over the last dozen years. Fortunately, none of the deaths in 2011 occurred in Ohio.  

The non-lethal attacks in Ohio occured in Enid, Elyria, Columbus, Toledo and two incidents in Cleveland Ohio.   One incident in January 2011 was a library guard attacking a homeless person, and then an incident in July was referenced in which two young people attacked a homeless guy with a shopping cart on Public Square.   The complete report can be found here

There is a renewed effort to get a bill passed in Congress to ask the Justice Department to begin to keep track of these hate crimes and report on those to Congress.  Unfortunately, at this point law enforcement does not report these crimes as a hate crime to the FBI.  Even though the number of hate crimes outpace every other population protected by federal hate crimes, it is not recognized by the US government.   These are terrible crimes in which vulnerable innocent people are attacked just because they are outside and a symbol of our inability in the United States to provide an adequate safety net.  It is a real sign of the violent times we currently live. 

Brian Davis

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Los Angeles Stabbings of Homeless People

While our attention has been rightly focused on the senseless killings in the Denver suburbs at the movie premier, a frightening number of attacks on homeless people while they slept came to an end.  Starting around Independence Day, a man attacked a homeless man with a knife and left a "death warrant" with the man.  The homeless guy who was not named wandered into the street and was taken to the hospital.  Three homeless individuals were stabbed while sleeping in Greater Los Angeles, and two homeless people were suspected of being stabbed in Santa Barbara.  A man, Courtney Robinson, turned himself in after he was identified as a "person of interest," and the Santa Barbara police were close to making an arrest.

One of the stories that got me thinking was a article in the Los Angeles Times while the individual terrorizing homeless people was still on the loose.  There was a plea by city officials and police for homeless people to come inside.  I was thinking what would happen if all the people sleeping outside in any city in America heeded the advice of the police and tried to get inside?  We estimate that there would be 140% more people showing up and requesting shelter in Cleveland if everyone came inside, and I am sure that Los Angeles and Santa Barbara would have even more people to contend with.  For homeless people reading the Los Angeles Times they would laugh at these statements.  They know that showing up at a shelter to request sanctuary from a killer would be fruitless.  If Los Angeles officials have opened the Coliseum or the Arena or closed down schools to serve the thousands who would show up requesting help that would be a sign they were serious.  If the City does not have a solution that would serve the population, why make the suggestion?   But to say publicly get out of the way of a potential killer and stay hidden is worthless and just sends terror through the community.

The other interesting note is that this story mentions the serial killer from December 2011 and January 2012 who targeted homeless people.  There is a lot of ink dedicated to this last threat to homeless people in Los Angeles, but what was missed was the contribution by the Los Angeles Times to that story.  If you remember, the Los Angeles Times published a story urging homeless people to go inside and there was a picture of a guy living outside with his name and location who within 10 days was the next target of the serial killer.  John Berry was hunted down by the serial killer and killed on January 13, 2012 after his picture was featured on the front of the paper.  The Times never apologized, and never announced any changes in policy after this breach of privacy.  Notice that there were not any pictures in the story that appeared in the latest story, so apparently learned something. 

Brian Davis

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