Violence Against the Homeless a Hate Crime?

Over the weekend, five homeless individuals were killed while they slept under a highway overpass in California.  Two weeks earlier, a homeless man was sleeping when someone poured gasoline on him and lit him on fire.

These two incidents in the past month have again brought forth discussion about adding violence against the homeless to the hate crimes bill.

Below is one of the news briefs from the current Streetvibes that discusses why advocates are working to add homeless individuals to the list of protected classes.

Los Angeles, Cal. — Last year Florida and California were ranked the states with the most lethal and non-lethal attacks against homeless people. California was cited as having 22, but Maria Foscarinis, the executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, believes the number is actually much higher because most incidents are never reported. She attributes this to the fact that homeless people are outside and can be attacked by anyone, for any reason, as well as the increasingly punitive action of cities against the homeless. In classes protected by hate-crime legislation, 0.1 percent of attacks result in death, while over 25 percent of attacks against the homeless result in death. Because of this, there is a movement to have the homeless covered by hate-crime legislation; two bills are being considered by the House of Representatives. Advocates are meanwhile working for other solutions, but believe hate crime legislation will send the message that the lives of the homeless are as valuable as the lives of anyone else. (Alison Stateman, Time with CNN, Oct. 22, 2008)