This article was first published by Street Sense Media on January 23, 2019.
Individuals experiencing homelessness are far more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime, the National Coalition for the Homeless concluded in December.
In their latest report, “Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017,” the NCH documented at least 112 anti-homeless attacks that occurred in the United States in 2016 and 2017 and analyzed 1,769 reported acts of violence committed against people experiencing homeless from 1999-2017. Of the 1,769 violent acts, 476 victims lost their lives as a result.
NCH studied attacks that occurred in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Perpetrators tended to be males under 30 years of age, and violent crimes included murders, beatings, rapes, and mutilations. Violent incidents between homeless individuals were not included in the analysis. The organization has produced an updated report on these data every one to two years since 1999.
Victims typically were middle-aged men. On average, 69% of the victims were over the age of 40 and 87% were male. NCH estimated the actual number of bias-motivated violence against homeless people is much higher, since many incidents go unreported.
Though some of these attacks were merely opportunistic and committed due to the victim’s vulnerability in public space, NCH confirmed that many of these violent acts were perpetrated because of a bias against a victim’s housing status.
NCH tracks these attacks to educate lawmakers, advocates, and the general public about the prevalence of violence committed against people who are homeless. Fear and disgust for homeless individuals have led many cities and states to criminalize homeless individuals and deny them services, according to the organization.
Unhoused people are often segregated from society; are subjected to laws that make it illegal to be poor or have their property legally stolen; receive a criminal label; are refused a place to sleep; denied food, bathrooms, and healthcare; are verbally abused; have their existence denied; and sometimes, are attacked by housed community members with a bias against homelessness.
This dehumanization leads to the marginalization of people experiencing homelessness and leaves these groups unprotected.