Ohio Activist Plan to Confront Attacks on Homeless People

State activists in Ohio intend to make an effort to stop the violence directed at homeless people through monitoring, improvements in the law, and local advocacy efforts. These are the efforts planned from the Ohio Civil Rights activists:

1. Collaborate with other Coalitions around Ohio to monitor violence directed at homeless people. Every month we meet to discuss strategies to confront hate crimes and criminalization efforts. At this time, we have monitoring agencies in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. The Coalition intends to expand to contacts in Toledo, Akron and Youngstown in 2004. There are efforts underway to develop a statewide database to track hate crimes and municipal efforts to criminalize homelessness.

2. Support Federal effort to get the General Accounting Office to investigate. On June 14, Congressman Conyers sent a letter to every member of the U.S. House of Representative asking for a GAO study on hate crime. Efforts are underway to ask every member of the Ohio delegation to sign on to this letter. After three years of waiting for a GAO study, and with the knowledge that summer is the time of greatest risk for homeless people, the Coalition is pressing for federal action on hate crimes.

3. Work to develop statewide legislation to add homeless people to the anti-hate crimes state legislation. In August of 2003, four young people attacked homeless people in both Youngstown and Cleveland. The prosecutors at both the City and County found that they could only charge these young people with a misdemeanor. Coalition staff felt that this was an injustice to charge predators who went into our community with the express purpose of violently attacking a group of people who find themselves homeless. Staff are working with the City of Cleveland and State legislators to improve the Ohio hate crimes law to include homeless people. This will increase the range of options that prosecutors can charge perpetrators of a crime against homeless people and would increase the penalty for those convicted of a hate crime.

4. Stopping the trafficking of hate. While many retailers have stated that they will stop selling the hate videos like “Bum Fights 1” and “Bum Hunts,” the videos are still available on smaller websites. The group is pleased with its victory in forcing the retailers that were selling these exploitative videos like Target, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble from pulling them, but the effort now is to get the filmmakers to stop filming these horrible videos and give up the profits from the sale of these videos.

5. Work to get homeless people to educate them about street exploitation. Ohio Civil Rights activist’s suspects that the young people in August were going to sell copies of the videotapes in the attacks in Cleveland. In other cities homeless people were offered money to drink urine or Windex or fight or harm them for money. Staff throughout Ohio intend to work with outreach workers statewide to caution homeless people from accepting money to be videotaped.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published July 2004 Issue 65B