John Berry, 64, a Vietnam veteran who lived without a home in Anaheim. Stabbed to death. Billy Rajah Jr., 47, a Salinas man living on the streets. Ran over by a man who decided that once wasn’t enough, so he ran over Rajah again, killing him. Pedro Ramos, 32, homeless in Houston. A group of teenagers shot him and took his wallet. He had $1.
The victims’ crimes: being poor.
Over the past 14 years, there have been at least 1,328 violent hate crimes perpetrated against homeless individuals, according to a new report. Of those, 357 people were killed. These attacks are “believed to be motivated by the perpetrators’ bias against homeless individuals or their ability to target homeless people with relative ease,” according to the National Coalition for the Homeless’ new report, Senseless Violence: A Survey of Hate Crimes/Violence against the Homeless in 2012. It’s important to note that these statistics likely undercount reality, since many acts of violence against homeless people go unreported.
In 2012, there were 88 homeless people who were victims of hate crimes, 18 of whom lost their lives. While most victims are middle-aged men, the typical attacker is a male less than 20 years old.
The FBI does not currently consider homelessness as a protected status in its tracking of hate crimes. If it did, though, it would have found nearly three hate crime homicides against homeless individuals for every hate crime homicide against individuals because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or orientation. As a result, the National Coalition for the Homeless is urging lawmakers to classify homeless status as a protected class in order to more effectively combat the spread of violent attacks against individuals without a home.
On Saturday, December 21, they and other groups will honor Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a day where people across the country will gather to remember all homeless people who died this past year. In Washington, D.C., for instance, advocates will hold an all-night vigil in Freedom Plaza beginning the night of December 20, followed by a memorial service at 9:30 am the following morning. Click here for more information.