Hate Crimes and Violence Against Homeless Rising

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently released the annual publication, HATE:A report of Hate Crimes and Violence Against Homeless People in the United States in 2001. The report found in 29 cities across the country there were 78 acts of hate  crimes violence committed against  people experiencing homelessness, 16 of which resulted in death. The report complies news reports for the year 2001 and lays out recommendations to ensure that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society-people without permanent housing-are protected against hate crimes and violent acts.

The report aims to educate lawmakers, advocates and the public about the problem of hate crimes and violence against people who are homeless. Cincinnati, Ohio was included in NCH’s report for 2001. The case involved a group of individuals aged 14 through 16 who hit a homeless man in the head while he was sitting in a park. Two days later, police officers found the man transported him to the hospital. Due to the attack, the man suffered a series of strokes resulting from internal injury to the brain.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), serving as the local advocate and monitoring site for NCH, has documented cases of violence against homeless people, including bricks, glass bottles, and garbage being thrown at individuals and one man being set on fire while sleeping. Many local activists and members within the homeless community consider the unsolved murders of two homeless men in September and October of 2001 to be hate crimes and suspect that the perpetrators were housed persons. Police were never able to determine the culprits.

Shelters throughout the country have received increasing reports of men, women and even children being harassed, kicked, set on fire, beaten to death, and even decapitated. Over the last three years alone (1999 through 2001) there have 109 murders of people without housing by housed people, 140 victims of non-lethal violence in 82 cities from 32 states and Puerto Rico. The youngest victim was a four month-old child; the oldest was a 74 year-old man. “In Cleveland in the 1990s we saw a rise in attempts to criminalize homelessness and it was only natural to see similar increases in anger directed at homeless people.” In said Brian Davis, Executive Director of NEOCH. “We did not see as many crimes committed against homeless people between 2001-2002 as we did the year after Cleveland began a policy of sweeping homeless people in 2000-2001.”

 NEOCH and NCH call on Congress to instruct the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the nature and scope of violent acts and crimes that occur against people experiencing homelessness. HATE: A Report of Hate Crimes and Violence Against Homeless People in the United States in 2001 can be found at www.nationalhomeless.org.

Published in the Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio July 2002 Issue 55