Homeless Hate Crimes Legislation
Reduce violent crime against homeless people by including them as a protected class under federal hate crimes statutes.
U.S. Representatives – Introduce or co-sponsor the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act and the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Enforcement Act. Contact Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and request a hearing on violence against people experiencing homelessness.
U.S. Senators – Introduce or co-sponsor the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act and the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Enforcement Act. Offer an amendment protecting homeless victims to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909) in the Senate Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor.
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.
Over national, state, and local 150 organizations 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.
In May 2009, Representative Johnson attempted to offer an amendment to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913/S. 909) protecting homeless victims under hate crimes statutes, but the amendment was not ruled in order by the Rules Committee.
WHY THIS MATTERS
- 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 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.
Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law.
In 1968 the United States Congress enacted the first modern law aimed at punishing some offenses now known as “hate crimes.” The statute, 18 U.S.C. § 245, made it a federal offense to target people on the basis of race, color and national origin because of their exercise of particular activities such as voting, public school attendance, or jury service. Subsequently, federal bias crime laws enacted have provided additional coverage.
The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) mandates the Justice Department to collect data from law enforcement agencies about “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based upon race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, enacted as a section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, defines a hate crime as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.” This measure only applies to inter alias, attacks and vandalism that occur in national parks and on federal property.
The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act would amend the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) to include homeless persons as a protected class. HCSA requires the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor and record data from law enforcement agencies on any crime classified as a hate crime in addition to publishing an annual report summarizing their findings.
The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Enforcement Act would amend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to include homeless persons as a protected class, making any targeted act of violence due to homeless status classifiable as a hate crime.
Each year since 1999, NCH and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) have issued a report on hate crimes and homelessness. Read the most recent hate crimes report, Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: America's Growing Tide of Violence (2009)
For further information on the public policy recommendations of the National Coalition for the Homeless, contact the NCH public policy staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.462.4822, or visit www.nationalhomeless.org.