Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hate crimes against homeless people -- is there a solution?

Recently the LA County Board of Supervisors made the decision to start tracking and reporting attacks against homeless people as hate crimes. Bias-related violent crime against homeless people for no other reason than their vulnerable status is rampant -- during the past year in LA, homeless people have been reported beaten, stabbed, set on fire and shot. But will adding homeless people to hate crimes enforcement do anything to prevent this problem? Let’s think about it for a moment…

Who commits most of the violent crime against homeless people? When you see a homeless person kicked in the face while sleeping, beaten with batons, hogtied on the ground, or dragged off into a van, who instigates this crime? Oh, I know -- our lovely law enforcement officers!

In LA over the last several years, there has been a dramatic escalation of the war on homeless people, as part of the city’s quest to gentrify the downtown area, as thousands of homeless people have systematically been harassed, arrested, brutalized, and displaced to make way for property development and real estate speculation. Adding homeless people to the hate crimes roster will only put more resources into the hands of the people committing these violent acts. And, while it’s difficult to figure out solutions for many hate crimes, with crimes against the homeless it’s quite simple. Let’s brainstorm -- what would prevent these hideous incidents from occurring? Oh -- I know -- housing for everyone who needs it!

That’s right -- I guarantee you that the vast majority of homeless people would love nothing more than a place of their own -- and, guess what? If they weren’t forced to sleep on the street, then they also wouldn’t be subjected to routine and systematic abuse by cops and other hooligans. LA, like every major city in the US, has more than enough empty buildings and vacant lots to support housing for every person who needs it. Instead of arguing for homeless status to be incorporated under hate crimes enforcement, we should be fighting for a redirection of resources to actually provide for the people most vulnerable.

7 comments:

marginalutility said...

@ least LA County acknowledges that they're disproportionately victims of violence. Here in my town, the low income rights org I organize with narrowly defeated (got tabled) some legislation de facto criminalizing panhandling based partly on the pretense that panhandlers are "aggressive" and violent. Of course I had to disseminate the fact that homeless people are much more likely to be victims of violence than to be perpetrators of it, and the fact that middle and upper class people are 20 times more likely to be attacked by someone in their own class, most commonly in domestic violence situations...

Hilary Goldberg said...

Homes for the homeless sounds like a far better solution. And cages for the oppressors til they get IT. Thanks for writing this.
xhil

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Marginalutility, lovely to hear from you -- we actually have an "aggressive panhandling" ordinance in the supposedly liberal bastion of San Francisco (although it might have gotten struck down in the courts), and I wouldn't be surprised if there's one in LA as well -- it's hideous the ways in which homeless people are always criminalized by politicians in order to get ahead of the polls (Gavin Newsom's successful election strategy, as one example). Certainly true that it's important for government officials to acknowledge the violence, but they need to stop perpetrating it as well...

And thanks, Hilary -- although I'm not sure about cages for the oppressors -- although certainly an end to their reign, dammit!!!

Love --
mattilda

Hilary Goldberg said...

...oh yeah I meant get IT as in until they "understand" from the other side of the equation not until homeless get homes - if that makes sense. but anyway really loved your post.

xhil

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Hilary yes yes I understand but of course I'm not sure if cages help people understand anything -- I'd rather figure out another way (as if we have the choice!) -- and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post!

Love--
mattilda

kayti said...

Your solution makes a lot sense. So much sense that I think most people will not see the logic.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

True enough!

Love --
mattilda