Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Roundup: proposed legislation
to protect the homeless

Proposed legislation that would include homeless people in Massachusetts’ hate crime statute is in the works.

"This is about protecting those individuals who are most vulnerable," said Rep. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, citing a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless that says at least 386 homeless people in the U.S. have been attacked since 1999, resulting in 156 deaths.

The bill produced skepticism from homeless advocates. "Don't we already have laws that are supposed to be protecting everybody?" asked Barbara Garneau of Our Father's House. "If we could get everybody off the street, that would be the safest thing for people."

"The real crime is the fact there's anybody on the streets at all," said Joe Finn of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance. "That's where I think the most energy and resources should be directed."

Read the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise story here.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, a bill that would classify crimes against homeless people as hate crimes died in a close Senate vote.

Senators voted 23-22 against the bill, which would have made Maryland the first state in the country to make the homeless a protected class of people.

Read the Baltimore Sun story here.

In Florida, a bill that would stiffen penalties for attacks on the homeless continues making its way through committees. Read the committe staff analysis here.

And in the nation’s capitol, "The College Access & Opportunity Act" has been passed by the House of Representatives.

The bill includes a provision that allows unaccompanied homeless youth to be considered independent students. Current rules require students to provide financial information from their parents – an often insurmountable barrier for unaccompanied homeless youth.

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