Maryland to Become First State to Add Homelessness as Protected Class to Hate Crimes Law
Annapolis, MD, May 7, 2009 – The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), Health Care for the Homeless (HCH)and the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) are pleased toannounce that Governor O’Malley of Maryland will sign SB 151 into law at 10:00 a.m. on May 7th. SB 151 will make Maryland the first state to add homeless people as a protected class to its hate crimes law.
From 1999-2007, there have been 774 documented acts of violence committed against homeless individuals in the United States, 217 of which have resulted in deaths. In Maryland, documented attacks on homeless people date back at least to 1992, when a homeless Korean War veteran was killed in Annapolis after being soaked in urine, kicked down a ravine, and called a “worthless bum.” In 2001, a group of young men from South Baltimore began beating and robbing homeless people, a spree which resulted in three deaths. On Valentine’s Day in 2008, a homeless man was beaten to death while sleeping in an alley in Frederick.
These incidents demonstrate the dangerous reality of life without housing and the increasing disregard for people experiencing homelessness. This law magnifies the importance of protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. Adding homeless individuals to Maryland’s hate crimes law sends a message that homeless individuals are not second-class citizens and deserve the same protections as historically targeted groups.