Lowenthal’s Homeless Hate Crimes Bill Passes State Senate
2011-07-21 · By Editor
The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill to give homeless people a way to take action against their assailants should they fall victim to the growing trend of anti-homeless violence.
Assembly Bill 312 would add homelessness to an existing list of people who can sue their attackers for enhanced penalties if it can be shown that the attack occurred because of the victim’s membership in a particular group. The measure has the backing of several large police organizations including the Long Beach Police Department.
“Homeless people have enough problems without becoming the targets of violence,” said Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the author of the bill. “This bill is the state’s way of saying those kinds of attacks are especially reprehensible.”
The so-called homeless hate crime bill deals with crimes in which homeless people are brutalized for no reason other than that they live on the street. State law currently offers this kind of legal protection to people based on their politics, their marital status, their age, race, ancestry, gender.
By focusing on civil instead of criminal penalties, Lowenthal’s bill would not add to the state’s prison overcrowding problem, and would not put any new pressure on the state’s overstretched budget.
California is home to the largest homeless population in the nation, and the highest rate of violence against the homeless. Nearly one in three homeless people have served in the military. Many have physical or mental disabilities.
“You don’t lose your humanity just because you lose your home,” Lowenthal said. “Human beings have rights. It’s just that simple.”
The measure is supported by the Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the California Peace Officers Association, and the California State Sheriff’s Association. The bill also is supported by the City of Long Beach, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California National Organization for Women, US Vets, AMVETS, the National Association of Social Workers and others.