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Shefights.net : A sequel to Bum Fights

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Hate Crimes

As of April 1, 2011 two homeless residents, George Grayson and Kyle Shaw of St. Petersburg, Florida are suing J.P Florida Productions, its owner Jeffery Williams as well as six female employees of the production company which is responsible for the videos posted and sold on shefights.net.  A temporary restraining order has been enacted and all eight defendants are each facing four charges including;  violation of the Florida Hate Crimes Act, violation of the Civil Remedies for Criminal Practice, Battery and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

NCH’s own AmeriCorps*Vista volunteer G.W. Rolle who is based in St. Petersburg noticed a large number of homeless men walking around with limps, black eyes and other visible wounds beginning early this year.  After many inquiries he finally was told about a series of “beatdowns” being carried out by women associated with shefights.net.  This company (J.P. Florida Productions) would recruit homeless men to participate in their fights after which they would be paid up to $50.00 for enduring the twelve minutes of non-stop beating by scantly clad women.

Several years ago, NCH mounted a campaign against a similar groups of videos that were released under the name, BumFights.  These videos included homeless men beating each other up and performing dangerous stunts like banging their head through glass windows and going down stairs in a shopping cart. Rufus Hannah, now an NCH Speaker, and others who were compensated with a few dollars or a beer, suffered severe injuries as a result of the videos.  In a 60 Minutes investigation in 2006, a link was made between the BumFights videos, and youth who were “copying” what they saw in the videos, leading to random violence against people who were homeless.

According to the defendant in the shefights.net case, the plaintiffs signed releases before they were beaten.  However, neither Mr. Grayson nor Mr. Shaw ever had any knowledge that videos of the beatings were going to be posted or sold on the internet, in some cases for upwards of $600.  Also the severity of the beatings was way beyond their expectations.  During many of the beating the men were tied up, thus unable to fight back at all.  Both plaintiffs have suffered severe injuries ranging from a dislocated jaw, to severe torso bruising to lacerations caused by whipping.  Not to mention that after several of the beating the plaintiffs were never paid the money that they were promised.

According to an article published in the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday April 12, the defendant, Mr. Williams, was quoted saying that he planned to counter sue claiming that the plaintiffs and their advocates lied and damaged his reputation.  He also said “These men are crack addicts and will say anything for money.”

Legal counsel for Mr. Shaw and Mr. Grayson believe that the reason these men were targeted by shefights.net was because they were homeless and vulnerable. Hence, Section 775.085 Florida Statue also know has as the Hate Crimes Act has been invoked on behalf of the plaintiffs.   A law that the National Coalition for the Homeless had a major hand in helping pass through the state legislature in the spring of 2010.  This is the first time since October 1, 2010 when the act took effect that it has been invoked.  Specifically the suit claims “Defendants chose to solicit, assault, and batter Plaintiffs because they were homeless, and Plaintiffs suffered injuries so severe as to evidence a hatred and contempt for people who are homeless.”

-Allison Sauls, Spring 2011 Intern

“Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Policy Advocacy

By: Brian Stone

Today, it seems as though there is normalized acceptance of a segment of our population not having enough food or shelter. The proof is last week’s budget cuts which will push those without food, homes and medical care into deeper despair. It is important that we remember what hangs in the balance. In the past, the anti-hunger and poverty movement has responded in a multitude of ways. One of those is known as a hunger fast (or strike) to draw public awareness to the issues the poor face and create policy change.

In the 1980’s Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, and Mitch Snyder, a life-time advocate for the homeless, fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building to pressure President Reagan into signing the first legislative protection for homeless people, which eventually became the McKinney-Vento Act. This act provided blanket protection and assistance to the homeless. Mitch and other advocates also fasted to get the federal government to transform an abandoned federal building in D.C. into a shelter for the homeless. Out of this fast the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) emerged, and remains D.C.’s largest shelter.

Former Ambassador Tony Hall has an unwavering commitment to poor people and poverty issues. While in Congress, Hall frequently authored legislation with expansive protections for the poor and vulnerable. In 1993, Hall, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, was dismayed by Congress’s decision to end the bi-partisan House Select Committee on Hunger. This resulted in his going on a 22-day hunger fast. He felt that Congress had lost sight of the issues that our most vulnerable face. The outcome of this fast was substantial. Congress agreed to fund the Congressional Hunger Center, of which I am honored to be a 17th Class fellow; and the World Bank pledged to support efforts to end world hunger.

Eighteen years later Hall feels that Congress has once again lost sight of the plight of the poor, those who stand to bare the brunt of the budget cuts. On March 28, 2011, Hall embarked on another fast to protest the current budget cuts. If you would like to join Tony Hall or get more information on the fast, check out: http://hungerfast.org/.

We must remember that people’s lives hang in the balance. What is more important than cuts made in the name of lowering the deficit is the impact that those cuts will have on a large group of people. Balancing the budget at the expense of the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. This will only prove to further complicate the lives of those who currently don’t have enough, with the likely end result being eventual increases in social support programs.

Hunger fasts, like Michael’s, Mitch’s, Tony’s and many others, have provided protections for the vulnerable and changed policy in the U.S. The time is now. Will you join the circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our society?

Brian is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Civil Rights division at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Meet NCH’s Spring Interns – 2011

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy

Each semester NCH welcomes some of the brightest up and coming homeless advocates to join our team as interns.  Our interns are critical contributors to NCH’s research, reporting and advocacy.  We’re extremely proud of our interns who continue to do great work in the homeless and anti-poverty community, like Shaun Donovan, who today heads up the US Department of Housing and Urban Development! Help us welcome our Spring 2011 crew:

Elan

Elan is a junior at George Mason University majoring in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She is also pursing  minors in legal studies and sociology. After graduation, Elan hopes to attend law school and fight for the rights of underrepresented people. She became interested in NCH when she did research on the criminalization of homelessness and learned about NCH’s advocacy work. When she has free time, Elan likes to volunteer at assistant living centers, explore DC cultural and dining centers, and watch romantic comedies. Currently, Elan is updating the fact sheets on homeless youth and homelessness in the LGBTQ community.

Samantha is a senior at George Washington University majoring in government studies and International Studies. She is also pursing a minor in French. After graduation, Samantha hopes to join the Peace Corps and serve others in West Africa. Samantha is an Alternative Spring Break Leader and is currently working on pulling together details for the homelessness Memorial Day project.

 

Allison is a junior at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas studying Urban Studies with a religion minor. She is studying at American University for as semester as part of the Transforming Communities program. Looking forward, Allison hopes to earn a Master’s of Divinity degree after college and advocate for the homeless. In her spare time Allison enjoys volunteering at community centers as well as modern and jazz dancing. Currently Allison is working on updating NCH manuals and researching the processes surrounding the enumeration of the homeless.

Gaberiel

Gaberiel is a senior at Hope College in Holland, MI studying Psychology and Political Science. She is in DC as part of her college’s DC Honors Semester Program. After graduation, Gaberiel hopes to participate in the Teach for America Program before she attends graduate school.  As a person who experienced a brief run in with homelessness with her mother growing up, advocating on behalf of the homeless is a very important part of her life. Gaberiel hopes that homeless children and teens know that they are not alone and that there are people out there that care about them and their families. She also hopes that everyone has access to opportunities to better themselves through education.  In her free time, Gaberiel likes to read books, spend time with friends, listen to music, and keep up on fashion trends. Currently she is working on the 2010 Criminalization of Homelessness Report.

Brendan

Brendan is the new Policy Fellow for NCH and we are very happy to have him! He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in History and a J.D. He currently serves as the Presidential Management Fellow for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He looks forward to working on behalf of vulnerable populations through research, analysis, and advocacy that helps to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) homelessness in our society. When he is not in the office, Brendan enjoys exploring D.C.’s many restaurants and museums, reading at DuPont Circle, and obsessively following his beloved Los Angeles Lakers.

Brian

We also welcome, Brian, our new Bill Emerson Congressional Hunger Fellow. He graduated from Morehouse College in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice. Brian became interested in NCH through his previous work with homelessness advocacy organizations.  In college, he spent a year and a half volunteering at the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, where he witnesses first hand the discrepancies between the resources needed and those allocated to them by the government.  In his free time, Brian likes reading and taking his dog to the park.

Did you spend some time with us as an intern or volunteer?  If so, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know about your experience!

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