Yesterday’s New York Times reported on a disturbing trend that the nation has been seeing–an increase in violent and deadly attacks against the homeless. A new report by the National Coalition for the Homeless shows that in 2009, forty-three fatal attacks were committed against homeless persons across the United States. This marks the highest number in a decade and is higher than all other nationwide fatalities designated as hate crimes combined. Additionally, seventy-four violent acts that did not result in death were committed in 2009 against homeless persons.
California had the highest number of crimes perpetrated against the homeless (27), followed by Florida (16), continuing a trend that has been consistent since 1999. From information collected over the past decade, the report also offers the most common characteristics of victims and perpetrators. The most common victim is a middle-aged homeless man, while the most common perpetrator of homeless hate crimes are young men.
“In the past eleven years, seventy-eight percent of the perpetrators were under the age of twenty five. In 2009, nearly half of the accused/convicted perpetrators were under twenty years old. The youngest known perpetrator in 2009 was twelve. Almost all (ninety-eight percent) of the perpetrators of homeless hate crimes in 2009 were male.”
The 87-page report lists summaries of each violent attack and death in 2009, which includes beatings, rapes, and setting individuals on fire. The report also delves into the cultural factors that may be contributing to the increase in violence, including video games and YouTube videos depicting, and in many cases supporting, violence against the homeless.
Several states have succeeded in classifying homelessness as protected category under hate crime statutes, including Florida, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Several other states have pending legislation, including New York.
Read the full report here.