National Coalition for the Homeless Mr. Smith warns himself and others not to be cold, hard, or insensitive.
See story on page 8.
Photo by Kevin E. Cleary (not present in web version).
For the past six years (1999- 2004), the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has tracked and reported on a disturbing increase in crimes targeting homeless people. These violent attacks on homeless people, one of our most vulnerable populations, result in injury and in many cases death.
The well-documented affordable housing crisis is not the only crisis to affect the millions of people who are homeless every year. There is also an increasing pattern of civil rights abuses and violence directed at the homeless population. Homelessness is no longer simply an issue of the right to affordable housing but a matter of life and death. As the danger of living without a home increases, the lack of federal housing resources as well as the absence of the political will to end homelessness becomes increasingly more shameful.
In October of 2004, three Milwaukee teens murdered a homeless man at his forest campsite. The teens hit 49-year old Rex Baum, with rocks, a flashlight, and a pipe, before smearing feces on his face and covering his body with leaves and plastic.
In August of 2004, Curtis Gordon Adams, 33, beat and stabbed a disabled homeless man to death and then licked the blood from his fingers on a Denver sidewalk.
More recently, on May 28th 2005, in Holly Hill, Florida, 53-year-old Michael Roberts was beaten and punched to death with sticks and logs by a group of teenagers who admitted to beating the man just for fun, to have something to do. The autopsy report indicates that Roberts died of blunt-force trauma to the head and body, his ribs were broken, his skull was fractured, and his legs were badly injured. Defensive wounds were found on his hands. The boys returned several times to make sure the job was done.
Homelessness is an issue that affects every community in America. Homeless people lack the protection of a locked door available to homeowners, leaving them in an unprotected position where they are subjected to hate crimes and violence. Sadly, the prevalence of hate crimes and violence against homeless people has risen, as well as negative stereotypes reinforced by the media and intolerant people.
Through this report, NCH hopes to educate lawmakers, advocates, and the public about the problem of hate crimes and violence against homeless people, as well as call for a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study addressing this issue.
This year’s report, Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2004, includes data from news reports, advocates, victims’ accounts, and homeless shelters on the number of homeless victimizations that have occurred in the past six years (for the full 2004 report and previous reports, please visit http://nationalhomeless.org/civilrights/hatecrimes.html).
Facts and Trends: The number of homeless deaths has risen by 67% since 2002. The number of non-lethal attacks against homeless people has risen by 281% since 2002. These crimes occurred in 140 cities in the past six years. These crimes occurred in 39 states, plus Puerto Rico. The age range of the accused/convicted ranged from 11 to 65 years of age. The age range of the victims ranged from 4 Months old to 74 Years of age. Gender of victims: 296 Male and 44 Female.
Request for U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study: U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-MI), along with the bipartisan support of 21 other members of Congress, is calling for a GAO study to assist Congress and the public in obtaining much-needed information on the extent and scope of violent acts and crimes against people experiencing homelessness. This request has been endorsed by nearly 500 local and national organizations. “
A GAO study is urgently needed to shed light on this frightening trend of hate crimes and violence. These horrific acts threaten the lives of over 3.5 million women, men and children experiencing homelessness each year,” said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of NCH.
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 72 August 2005 Cleveland, Ohio.