The PJ Tatler

Advocates Want Crimes Against the Homeless Added to Hate Crimes

Actress Susan Sarandon joined members of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus on the Hill today for a briefing about violence against the homeless.

One of the caucus members, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), introduced a bill last year that would amend the Hate Crime Statistics Act to include crimes against the homeless in the crime data collected by the Attorney General.

“Violence against homeless individuals is a problem that has no boundaries.  It is a threat to our homeless men, women, and children of all backgrounds,” said Johnson. “Until we have a sound understanding of the scope and nature of the problem, we will remain unable to develop targeted solutions or draft comprehensive reform.  Today’s briefing is a solid step towards increased awareness of the problem.”

“We must continue to take deliberate steps toward ending violence against our homeless population,” she added.

The National Coalition for the Homeless released statistics this spring that showed a 23 percent increase in attacks on the homeless in 2013 even as the nation’s homeless population decreased.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who co-chairs the caucus with Johnson, said the number of those without a roof over their heads has “thankfully” decreased.

“However, those facing homelessness still face real threats from violence,” Hastings continued. “My home state of Florida has long been at the top of the list of states where violence against the homeless remains a significant problem, and that needs to change. As a nation, we must do more to protect the homeless population and to foster an environment where the most disadvantaged amongst us can break the cycle of homelessness.”

Since 1999, the National Coalition for the Homeless has documented more than 1,437 acts of violence against homeless individuals, 375 which resulted in death.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) also joined the briefing, calling it “unthinkable that more than a million people struggle with the scourge of homelessness in the world’s most prosperous nation.”

“Even more unacceptable is the trend of violence against these individuals,” Conyers said. “Congress must act to ensure that those struggling with homelessness are not further victimized by violence. Today’s briefing will help educate and encourage members of Congress to take meaningful action on this issue.”