It’s safer to be homeless in New York than it is in Ohio.
Data gathered by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) show more hate crimes occurred in Ohio against the homeless in 2011 than against the homeless in New York. And those are just the reported incidences.
The most common victim of homeless hate crimes is a middle aged, homeless man. In 2011, the average age of homeless victims was forty-seven. 84% of the victims were male.
While 40 states treat crimes against the homeless as a hate crime, Ohio does not.
On January 13, 2013 two men assaulted and beat a homeless man in downtown Canton, then left him to die. He suffered multiple injuries, including severe head trauma. After a full week of care he remains in critical condition.
How do we know it was two men who beat him? They were less than 1 block from Aultman Hospital and its video surveillance system recorded them. The two attackers left and returned, or at least left the video camera’s range, then re-entered it. Who can guess why they returned to the scene of their crime? To relish their handiwork? Maybe to hurt him some more? Either way they saw hospital security heading their way and they had to make a run for it.
In the seven days since Mr. Doty suffered the assault The Repository has run two stories about the crime, plus one online with a link to the video showing the two men the police want to find. The paper’s stories show its staff take the violence seriously, and perhaps as a result someone will come forward with information leading the police to the perpetrators. Yet, public outrage is missing. Where are the letters to the editor or story comments? The only tweet on the Rep’s twitter account is a link back to the paper’s original report.
In recent memory people have posted comments and sent letters to the editor about lost dogs, Mother Gooseland and plenty about the Browns. In the last week readers tweeted about Lance Armstrong, Dennis Kucinich, the Palace Theater, and yes, more about the Browns.
Do we not have anything to say about the senseless violence against Mr. Doty? How can we know if people cared enough even to read the stories if no one speaks up?
Homelessness is not a lifestyle of choice. Physical assault is common. Exposure to the elements exacts its toll on their mental and physicial health. Extreme heat in the summer can cause heat strokes, extreme cold in the winter can cause hypothermia and steady rain soaks through their clothes, socks and shoes. Food may be a luxury, where they go days without food or get food that leaves them malnourished. Imagine trying to keep track of your medicine when you have nowhere to store it. Homelessness is an act of survival each and every day.
Ohio does not legally recognize assaults against the homeless as a hate crime. Florida deserves credit for its pioneering 2010 legislation making such attacks a hate crime. Since then 39 more states have added it to hate crime status, or somehow increased penalties for the cowards who beat up the homeless. So far Ohio has not recognized that prejudice against the homeless is no better than prejudice against people who practice different religions, have different skin colors or have a different sexual orientation. The crime against Mr. Doty is an opportunity for us to see the true nature of this crime - it is a crime against him simply because of who he is.
No doubt most people want the police to catch Mr. Doty’s assailants and punish them. We must do more. Its time for our County to break its silence about Mr. Doty and the abhorrent acts against him. Let’s recognize it as a hate crime, committed by people with homes who think it’s acceptable to hurt those without one.
The death of Matthew Shepard helped America see the ugliness of prejudice against gay people. Monday, January 21 marks a day to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught thousands of us that prejudice against people of color holds us all back. Maybe Mr. Doty can be the spark of justice for hate crimes against the homeless.
Write letters to the editor, comment online, post it on Facebook and tweet about it. Call your political representatives, talk to your friends and family. This is how change works. Instigate change for the sake of Mr. Doty.