Hate crimes against homeless people likely going unreported, police say

·2 min read
People living under a bridge in Calgary. Police believe attacks on people experiencing homelessness may be underreported.  (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People living under a bridge in Calgary. Police believe attacks on people experiencing homelessness may be underreported. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Calgary police say some hate crimes against homeless people in Calgary are likely not being reported to them — something they want to improve.

It follows a violent attack last month near the Bow Tower in the city's downtown where a vulnerable homeless man was pushed over and kicked in what police believe was a hate-motivated attack.

The man suffered injuries and required medical attention after he was kicked in the ribs and face.

Two men have since been charged with aggravated assault in the case.

Police and homeless agencies say more attacks against homeless people are likely happening but aren't being reported to them.

"We believe that we're missing out on a good chunk of potential hate crime reported by the vulnerable population," said Const. Matt Messenger with the hate crimes team of the Calgary Police Service.

Messenger said police are working in an outreach capacity to educate shelters and their clients on what constitutes a hate crime and to build more trust.

Calgary Police Service
Calgary Police Service

"There's definitely barriers in place between the vulnerable population and the police. Sometimes they're not aware they've been victimized or they just don't feel safe coming forward to report it," said Messenger.

Messenger said official data only shows two violent hate crimes directed at homeless people since December.

"It's difficult to gauge. Anecdotally we certainly hear about them and know that they do happen which is extremely unfortunate," said Sandra Clarkson, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

Clarkson said her organization offers victim services to clients, working with them to report crimes to police and encourage them to allow the justice system to get involved, but it can be a challenge.

"For some there are negative interactions or experiences that they've had in the past, but we do try to work with them to follow the process," said Clarkson.

Clarkson said the issue highlights the broader need for housing for all and that nobody deserves to be living on the streets or in shelters.

She said the DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) team can help vulnerable individuals and take them off the street and to a safe place.

If you see someone on the street in distress you can contact the DOAP team at 403 998-7388.

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