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MODEL CITY/COUNTY/STATE LEGISLATION/RESOLUTIONS

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) collaborated with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) to promote the following legislation.

On the federal level, in 2009, there are two bills being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and 13 other U.S. Representatives introduced H.R. 3419.  The bill seeks to amend the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to include crimes against homeless people.  The other co-sponsors are(as of July 30, 2009):  Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL).

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced H.R. 262, the David Ray Ritcheson Hate Crime Prevention Act, which provides support to victims of hate crimes. Those victims who lose their jobs due to an attack can claim unemployment insurance. If the victim loses their house, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development can use grants to provide housing for victims including those who were homeless before the attack and are now in need of assistance because of the attack. 

With hate crimes/violence against homeless people escalating, NCH and NLCHP are asking local homeless advocates/direct service providers to have legislation introduced in your respective state legislatures and/or city/county legislative bodies.  Below is a model piece of legislation that we recommend.

  • There are four states (Alaska, California, Maryland, and Maine) that have passed pieces of this proposed model legislation.  Maryland was the first and only state to non-discretionally add homelessness to its hate crimes law.  Legislation is currently pending in California, Florida, and South Carolina.  The Washington, DC City Council approved adding homeless people to its hate crimes law on July 31, 2009.  It was signed into law by the Mayor on August 6, 2009.

For help and advice in getting this model legislation introduced in your city/county/state legislative body, please contact: 

Michael Stoops, Executive Director, NCH
Ph:  (202) 462-4822 x234; Email: mstoops@nationalhomeless.org

and

Tulin Ozdeger, Civil Rights Program Director, NLCHP
Ph: (202) 638-2535 x212; Email: tozdeger@nlchp.org
If you succeed in getting legislation introduced, please let us know right away.
We can then mobilize our grassroots members in your state to assist in the lobbying efforts.
 

Model Language for City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions

Whereas, hate crimes and violence against homeless persons has become a nationwide epidemic, with 880 reported cases of violence against homeless people over the past decade (1999-2008), resulting in 244 deaths;

Whereas, the scope of prohibitions against the commission of hate crimes against certain groups of persons should include homeless persons;

Whereas, understanding violent crimes committed against homeless persons and adequate punishment for such crimes play key roles in preventing and managing violence against homeless persons; and

Whereas, law enforcement needs proper training to handle and prevent violent crimes against homeless persons;

Be it enacted:

  1. Definition of Homeless Person – For purposes of this section, “homeless person” refers to an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is:

    (a) A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings;

    (b) A supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, including motels, hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing; or

    (c) Housing of other persons in which the individual is temporarily staying due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.

  2. The state hate crimes statute shall be expanded to include homeless persons as a protected class.

  3. Prohibition on Hate Crimes against Homeless Persons – The following acts shall be deemed a hate crime and prohibited when carried out against a person on the basis that person’s status as a homeless person:

    (a) Assault, aggravated assault, battery, or aggravated battery upon the person; or

    (b) Acts that deface, damage, or destroy or attempt to deface, damage, or destroy the personal property of the person; or

    (c) Acts that result in the death of the person; or

    (d) Any other crime against the person.

  4. Punishments for Hate Crimes Against Homeless Persons –

    (a) A person convicted of aggravated assault or aggravated battery upon a homeless person based on the victim’s status as a homeless person shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 3 years and fined not more than $10,000.  The person shall be ordered by the sentencing judge to make any restitution to the victim of the offense and to perform 500 hours of community service work.  Restitution and community service work shall be in addition to any fine or sentence that may be imposed and shall not be in lieu thereof.

    (b) Whenever a person is charged with committing an assault or aggravated assault or a battery or aggravated battery upon a homeless person based on the victim’s status as a homeless person, the offense for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as follows:

    • In the case of aggravated battery, from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree.
    • In the case of aggravated assault, from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree.
    • In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree.
    • In the case of assault, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.

5. State Office of the Attorney General Study - 

    (a) The Office of the Attorney General shall assess the extent of the problem of crimes against homeless persons and develop a plan to prevent these crimes and apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

    (b) In developing the assessment and plan, the Office of the Attorney General shall consult homeless persons, service providers and advocates for homeless persons and law enforcement agencies with experience investigating crimes against homeless persons.

6. Law Enforcement Training on Hate Crimes against Homeless Persons –

    (a) The lead state law enforcement agency shall develop a telecourse that shall be made available to all law enforcement agencies in the state.  Every state, local, and correctional law enforcement agency shall certify that each of its officers has taken the course.  The telecourse shall address crimes against homeless persons and methods of dealing effectively and humanely with homeless persons.  The course shall include instruction on each of the following topics:

    • Information about homelessness, including causes of homelessness, its impact, and solutions to homelessness.
    • Indicators of hate crimes.
    • The impact of these crimes on the victim, the victim’s family, and the community.
    • The assistance and compensation available to victims.
    • The laws dealing with hate crimes and the legal rights of, and the remedies available to, victims of hate crimes.
    • Law enforcement procedures, reporting, and documentation of hate crimes.
    • Techniques and methods to handle incidents of hate crimes.
    • The special problems inherent in hates crimes against homeless persons and techniques on how to deal with these special problems.

    (b) The lead state law enforcement agency shall develop a protocol that law enforcement personnel are required to follow, including, but not limited, to the following:

    • Preventing likely hate crimes by, among other things, establishing contact with persons and communities that are likely targets, and forming and cooperating with community hate crime prevention and response networks.
    • Responding to reports of hate crimes, including reports of hate crimes committed under color of legal authority.
    • Providing victim assistance and follow up, including community follow up.
    • Reporting methods and procedures to track hate crimes against homeless persons.

    (c) In developing the telecourse, the lead state law enforcement agency shall consult subject matter experts including, but not limited to, the following:

    • Homeless and formerly homeless individuals;
    • The National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty;
    • Other local homeless service providers and advocates for homeless people;
    • Experts on the disabilities homeless persons commonly experience; and
    • Law enforcement agencies with experience investigating hate crimes against homeless people.

CONTENTS: Main page | pdf of full report | Acknowledgements | Dedication | Executive Summary | Purpose, Methodology, and Previous Reports | Introduction | Historical Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data for 1999-2008 | Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data in 2008 | Summary of Teen/Young Adult Involvement in Hate Crimes/Violent Acts | Summary of Ages of the Accused versus Ages of the Victims | Summary of Victims Who Were Middle-Aged | Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Map of Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Comparison of Hate Crime Homicides vs. Lethal Attacks on Homeless Individuals | National Media Coverage of Hate Crimes/Violent Acts Against Homeless People | Video Exploitation of Homeless People | Recognizing Anti-Homeless Violence as Hate Crime, by Brian Levin | Legislation | Recommendations for Action | Model City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Adopted City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Public Education Initiatives | Listing of Incidents by City | Case Descriptions Involving Deaths | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Rape/Sexual Assault | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Setting on Fire | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Beatings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Shootings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Police Harassment/Brutality | Appendix A: Sources | Appendix B: NCH Hate Crimes Public Service Ads |

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