Some homeless advocates are voicing support for legislation that would classify violence against homeless people as a hate crime. Supporters of the idea say the issue has taken on new urgency following the recent brutal murders of Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson as they slept in a lot in Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness is the latest group to come out in support of enhanced sentences for those who attack homeless people. Other supporters include Albuquerque City Councilor Rey Garduño and state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto.
Coalition executive director Hank Hughes says the hate crime bill would be a good start, though the state’s long-term goal should be more investment in housing to help residents transition out of homelessness.
“In part it’s a statement by the legislature and our society at large that we want to protect this group of people,” Hughes said. “I think it does have some effect—one effect is that if people commit such crimes they’ll probably be off the streets for a longer period of time.”
State Senator Bill O’Neill of Bernalillo plans to re-introduce a bill on the issue in the upcoming legislative session. He introduced a similar bill with bipartisan support in 2013, but the measure never made it to the floor for a vote.