People are increasingly being discriminated against for being homeless. This discrimination may take the form of a violent attack, a civil rights abuse or even a dirty look from passersby. Here are some ways that homeless people are being mistreated and what can be done to alleviate the situation.
Many people believe that homeless people are in their situation because of laziness---that if they only got a job, they'd no longer be homeless. While this may be true for some homeless individuals, it's not the standard. People face major obstacles when they become homeless. Being homeless in itself can be a barrier to employment and housing due to discrimination. Some homeless people are taken advantage of by temporary employment agencies that only pay minimum wage. Homelessness is not easy to change.
Homeless people are discriminated against through hate crimes and civil rights abuses. Many cities are passing legislation to criminalise homeless people who sleep in downtown areas or who sit or hang out near businesses. Sweeps of homeless camps are common in cities and towns. Many homeless people are robbed of their political voice. Due to ID laws, homeless people have been barred from voting for not having a valid ID. Homeless people are also targeted by attackers. Violent crimes committed against homeless people are on the rise, and many homeless people have died as a result of such attacks.
Homeless people have been turned away from polls and not allowed to vote. To combat city discrimination, homeless people have rallied and protested city halls. In many cities, transient people are forming a "Homeless Congress" that is made up of homeless representatives from area shelters. The congress meets together and tackles major issues in their city and invites public officials to speak on homelessness. The congress is a proactive way for homeless people to get involved with politics. Due to physical attacks, outreach teams are preaching safety tips and encouraging people to sleep in a large groups. Many homeless people are reporting their attacks and filing police reports.
Rampant discrimination causes homeless people to be viewed as objects or plagues, rather than people with valid histories and life experiences. Teenage boys are especially vulnerable to attacking homeless people for fun or sport. The DVD "Bumfights" popularised spontaneously attacking people who sleep on the street---all while videotaping the whole ordeal. Many teens have attempted to recreate their own version of "Bumfights." Children as young as ten years old have been caught beating a homeless person. Attacks usually result in serious injuries, and not too uncommonly, death.
Homeless people can receive better justice if they become protected under current hate crimes laws. Currently, attacking a homeless person isn't considered a hate crime. Yet, in most instances that person was singled out and attacked because they were vulnerable and homeless. Homeless people need to be seen as individuals---not things. Schools should invite formerly homeless people to speak on their experiences to allow students to put a face on homelessness. This may prevent attacks from happening. Also, cities need to directly deal with homeless people and not simply sweep them to the outer city limits.