Attacks Against Homeless Rising

Aug 17, 2009

There were more than 100 violent attacks against the U.S.’s homeless population in 2009, and 27 of these attacks were lethal, according to a new report. Hate, Violence, And Death on Main Street USA, 2008 from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) finds that the perpetrators of these crimes tend to be men or teenage boys who punch, kick, shoot or set afire people living on the streets.

Eight percent of the recorded crimes against the homeless in 2008 were rapes or sexual assaults, and women were the victims in all those cases. The new report contains case descriptions of each attack that included sexual assault. In Hayward, California, a serial rapist was responsible for sexual assaults against five homeless women from February to October 2008.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that 42 percent of the homeless population is unsheltered. They in particular are vulnerable to attacks. The report notes that because crimes committed against homeless persons often go unreported, the actual numbers of non-lethal attacks is likely much higher. Rapes and sexual assaults also tend to go unreported.

While the motive for many attacks are unclear, some attackers later said they committed the crimes out of “boredom,” or for a “thrill” or “fun.”

“Those experiencing homelessness are often ignored or misunderstood by society. If these brutal attacks were committed against any other religious or minority group to the same degree, there would be a national outcry and call for governmental action,” said Michael Stoops, executive director of NCH. “We must respond to this dehumanization and protect homeless persons against hate crimes and violence.”

Hate, Violence, And Death on Main Street USA, 2008 recommends that state legislatures add homeless persons as a “protected class” to hate crime legislation, and encourages police trainings so law enforcement officers will better understand homelessness and how to prevent hate crimes.

Click here to read the report online.

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