Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

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

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | April 15, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Politics, Politics
Tags: gentrification, hate crimes legislation, LA, Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, police state tyranny, prison industrial complex, skid row

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.

Mattilda also blogs at nobodypasses.blogspot.com.


Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


I agree 110 percent. And unfortunately California has been leading the charge in the war on homeless people, with San Francisco, L.A., Santa Monica and other cities all ramping up their anti-homeless policies for the last 10 years or so.

As the numbers of homeless grow with the ongoing recession, these brutalities against the homeless will HAVE to end...along with the mindless municipal regulations that make it "illegal" for homeless people to be homeless.

Mattilda,

As usual, you cut through the b.s. to make a simple, effective, brilliant point! I hadn't heard about this decision - it's shocking to see how many disenfranchised communities are getting ensnared in the web of hate crimes legislation just to make a pitch for something that only profits the prison industrial complex *and* furthers the reach of the very people who perpetrate the crimes in the first place.

Thanks as always.

Seriously.

Thanks for posting this here.

J

A. J. Lopp | April 15, 2009 3:00 PM

The fact of history that rarely if ever gets mentioned is that during his ministry, Jesus was essentially a homeless person. He probably didn't sleep on the street all that often, though, because his audiences liked him so much that someone would usually provide him shelter for the night.

And once he became enlightened, the Gautama Buddha was not that different.

So much for homelessness being a "crime".

Just a footnote: Many shelters are run by evangelical groups and will not accept anyone who is openly GLBT. They do this because they want to run their place the same way that Jesus would have.

While it can be tricky to apply cultural norms across two millennium your observation is on the money. Additionally there was also the cultural norm that the stranger in our midst was welcomed and protected rather than shunned (the real sin of Sodom).

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 16, 2009 8:53 AM

Of course old friend, that assumes that Christianity ever lived up to it's best examples. Our colonial American Puritanical stock would have as easily let a stranger freeze in the winter. We are a country founded by religious zealots, who in the process long ago separated themselves from a moral compass.

It doesn't take any more money that we already spend on civic frivolities. It takes political will. A will that lasts longer than the next candlelight vigil.

And lest anyone be confused, some of those homeless people actually have jobs. This isn't about being lazy and irresponsible.

Patricia, you are so right -- and it's depressing that San Francisco, for example, is consistently given praise for its supposedly "progressive" policies -- and now LA seems to be moving in that direction: criminalize the homeless in every way possible, and then declare that you're helping them!

Yasmin, "it's shocking to see how many disenfranchised communities are getting ensnared in the web of hate crimes legislation just to make a pitch for something that only profits the prison industrial complex *and* furthers the reach of the very people who perpetrate the crimes in the first place." How could I agree with you more?!?!

Thanks, Jessica -- and for your reporting!

AJ, thanks for the religious/historical note -- and then, of course, there are the shelters run by organizations that have hideous anti-gay, anti-queer, anti-trans (and anti-human!) policies, but are more than happy to take government funding to house/imprison the people they consider undesirables.

Greg, you are so right -- we need the political will! And true that many many homeless people have jobs, and many homeless people who are not lazy or irresponsible also don't have jobs -- and, of course, lazy and irresponsible people deserve housing too (even the bankers and the billionaires)...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 16, 2009 12:22 AM

Mattilda, wonderful insights!

I recently received an email picture of a homeless man at a food kitchen blocks from the White House where Michelle Obama was serving food. The homeless man was taking her picture with a cell phone as she served food and smiled into the camera. The emailer asked: "If he is homeless how can he have a phone with no where to send a bill?"

I responded that I did not know, a relative, a post office box, maybe recently lost a job, maybe severely underemployed. After all, who needs a phone more than a homeless person? This was a half assed criticism of Obama for giving this man a plate of food into the bargain.

There is a hatred of the homeless that the heartless have perfected. They just don't want to understand that being unfortunate is not being evil.

A. J. Lopp | April 16, 2009 4:45 PM

Yes, Robert, this a-hole is implying "The guy can afford a cell phone so he doesn't deserve to receive a free meal!"

That is absurd! Economically distressed people visit food banks and day shelters all the time to receive groceries and free meals without having their phones disconnected first!

And there are several totally legit ways that a homeless person might be given a cell phone, including that some homeless programs supply them so that the person can be contacted if an employer has work for them. There are also prepaid "Pay as you go" cell phone plans that do not require a bank account or credit rating.

Brad Bailey | April 16, 2009 12:15 AM

While the LA police may in part be responsible for violence against the homeless in the name of gentrification, I believe it is sheer lunacy to believe that they are responsible for most of it. They are not the ones stabbing, burning, and clubbing homeless people with baseball bats. Supervisors Yaroslavsky and Knabe were genuinely concerned about the plight of these people, and their answer sounds quite practical to me. So does the author's alternative of redirecting resources to open up vacant buildings and lots to house the homeless.

To suggest that law enforcement agencies are endorsing hate crimes legislation like H.R 1913 solely to empower themselves to commit even more hate crime is just about the most ridiculous, delusional paranoid thinking I've encountered in quite some time.

The police get a bad rep in minority communities - some of it deserved some of it maybe not so much. But the thing is, perceptions are what they are. The police bring a lot of their rep on themselves. The do so when they stubbornly resist civilian/community oversight. The do so when their unions openly support repressive law and order candidates.

Robert, "There is a hatred of the homeless that the heartless have perfected." So true -- and everyone else goes along!

Rick Elliott | April 16, 2009 3:05 AM

There are assumptions made by some folk on this subject:
---All homeless folk would want housing if it were available,
---Hate crime status makes a significant impact to diminish hate crimes,
---Homeless folks are just like everyday folks but live in the streets,
---We're unable to do anything about revivalist groups against GLBT homeless folks. NOTE: I don't use evangelical (good news bearers)because the word is far to rich to be applied to the so-called Christ Right. We can do something if they receive any government money.

Subjects not mentioned:
---The failure of VA hospitals to treat soldiers emotionally damaged by serving our country in wars,
---The current practice to ineffectively treat mental illness. State facilities are closing due to the current practice of getting mentally ill stabilized on medication, then releasing them with the assumption that medication is the complete solution will be continued, much less be funded. Any who're involved in health care will attest that it takes all our wits to squeeze necessary treatment out of a system that rewards non-treatment.
---providing ways for homeless to choose their own lifestyle and providing a safety net.
As with the boycott of Jamaica, we need to consult folks before we make statements on their behalf.

Good point. People think that more police on any given situation is always a solution. It's not. Let's move past that.

Brad, "To suggest that law enforcement agencies are endorsing hate crimes legislation like H.R 1913 solely to empower themselves to commit even more hate crime is just about the most ridiculous, delusional paranoid thinking I've encountered in quite some time."

Well, then I will take ridiculous, delusional paranoid thinking, yay for ridiculous, delusional paranoid thinking!

And Alex, "People think that more police on any given situation is always a solution. It's not. Let's move past that." Exactly!