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June 16, 2004

Help Fight Violence Against the Homeless

Deadline: June 24, at 5:00 p.m.

Dear Colleague:

The June 2001 killing of Hector Robles in Patterson, NJ by a mob of high school boys saturated the press with a story both horrible in its brutality and inexplicability of motivation.  Hidden from most Americans, however, is the number of shocking crimes committed nationwide against people experiencing homelessness each year. 

For the last five years, the National Coalition for the Homeless has tracked a disturbing increase in crimes targeting homeless people. Since 1999, more than 157 people have died in hate attacks, with hundreds more injured in other violent assaults.

Please join me in requesting an investigation by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) into the nature and scope of violent acts and hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness.  This investigation would assist Congress and the public in obtaining much-needed information to help federal, state, and local officials identify actions that could prevent and reduce such crimes.

Homeless men, women, and children around the nation are particularly vulnerable to crimes against them because they represent an easy, visible target and often lack a place to retreat for safety and protection.  Across the nation, people experiencing homelessness, advocates, and service providers report an alarming epidemic of hate crimes and violent acts against people who lack permanent housing.  These accounts include beatings, murders, arson, harassment, and damage of personal property.  Thrill seekers, primarily in their teens, are the most common perpetrators of the violence.  This trend has been exacerbated by the proliferation of “Bum Videos,” in which homeless people are coerced to perform degrading and dangerous stunts for money, alcohol, or food.  

A study by the GAO would aid in protecting one of the most vulnerable populations in our society.  This request has been endorsed by nearly 500 local, national and foreign organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Council of La Raza, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National League of Cities, National Organization of Women (NOW), and Volunteers of America.

Please contact Keenan Keller of my Judiciary Committee staff at 5-6906 to join me in taking the first step to ending hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness. 



John Conyers, Jr.

Ranking Member

Judiciary Committee


National Coalition for the Homeless
2201 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037-1033

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