Making violence against the homeless a hate crime

Why some are trying to reclassify violence against the homeless as a hate crime

This past June, The National Coalition for the Homeless (or NCH) reported that there was a 23.8 percent rise in the number of violent attacks against the homeless in 2013 from 2012.

While these sorts of crimes are stereotypically thought of as isolated incidents in places with a large homeless population like New York and Los Angeles, violence against the homeless is truly an extensive problem. Attacks have been reported in 47 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The homeless are losing their lives

These assaults targeting the homeless aren’t just a few punches thrown by mean-spirited bullies. One such example is the horrific story of Carl Simon, a homeless man who was beaten, bound with electrical tape, and found dead in a dumpster.

The truth is that attacks on the homeless can be brutal, vicious and life threatening. The NCH reported that of the 109 attacks that took place against the homeless in 2013, 18 ended up killing the victim. Even worse, over the last 15 years, the NCH found that of the 1,437 violent crimes that targeted homeless people, 375 victims were killed.

It’s thought that the reason homeless are targeted is that perpetrators believe they can get away with the attacks with little to no consequences, as homeless victims won’t typically have quick access to a phone, family, friends or a safe place to hide.

It’s time to reclassify violence against the homeless as a hate crime

The NCH reports that, since 1999, the number of attacks on homeless victims that resulted in death exceeds the combined number of deaths in hate crimes that targeted specific races, religions and sexual orientations.

The numbers don’t lie. Homeless people are being singled out for violence—but they aren’t currently classified as a group that can be protected by hate crime laws.

That’s why the Violence Against the Homeless Accountability Act of 2013 was introduced. This legislation would protect homeless people by allowing any act of violence that specifically targets the homeless to be classified as a hate crime. This may help deter further violence against homeless victims, as hate crimes carry harsher penalties for the perpetrators that commit them.

How you can help

First, always call the police if you witness anyone abusing or attacking a homeless victim. The homeless don’t usually have access to cellphones and other technology, so they depend on us to help them if they’re in need.

You can also support the reclassification of the homeless as a protected group under hate crime laws by contacting your local, state and federal representatives.

Finally, you can support the homeless right here in Columbus by donating your vehicle to Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. We’ll take almost anything with a motor (including RVs, motorcycles, and farm equipment). Your donation is tax-deductible, and we can even arrange same-day towing—free.

Remember, if you can donate to Volunteers of America, you’ll help us provide the homeless with food, shelter and aid in every Ohio community we serve.

Fill out our car donation form, or contact the Car Donation & Auction Office at 614-870-7511 if you have any questions.