Thursday, August 27, 2009

Videos of US homeless beatings spike online/An Unpleasant “Sub Species” Not Behaving the Way We Wish – or Precious Souls Deserving of Help?

By Virginie Montet (AFP)

WASHINGTON — Videos of homeless people being beaten or forced into humiliating acts are increasingly popular online, leading some US lawmakers to seek harsher penalties for hate crimes against the poor.

"They have become a new minority group that is okay to hate. If this would have happened to any other minority group, there would be some boycotts or protests," said National Coalition for the Homeless director Michael Stoops.

Twenty-seven homeless people were killed in 2008 out of a total of 106 attacks, with the bulk committed by males who were 25 or younger, according to a report published earlier this month by the NCH.

The total number of attacks was less than the 160 recorded last year but still far higher than the 60 listed a decade ago. More incidents are thought to have occurred but gone unreported.

On the Internet, videos of "bum fights" are a growing trend, with their authors defending the practice just for the "fun" or the "thrill."

In July, nearly 86,000 degrading videos of homeless people were posted on YouTube --- 15,000 more than a year earlier -- according to an NCH count.

No less than 5,700 of the posts -- 1,400 more than in April 2008 -- showed self-proclaimed "bum fights," where the homeless were pushed to battle each order in return for a pack of beers or a few dollars, but also to the amusement of those shooting the videos or watching them.

"This is exploiting people when they are at their lowest point," said Andrew Davis, who used to live on the streets in the nation's capital, Washington.

"Right now, the homeless have no voice. We need to prevent these things and the community has to be vigilant," the 44-year old told AFP as he stood by dozens of homeless receiving a free meal.

The trend began in 2001, with videos showing fights or urging homeless people to jump into a trash bin from up high. Some 6.8 million similar videos have been sold on DVD since then.

Some accept the humiliation because "they are alcoholic, they are mentally disabled, have no money," explained Stoops. "They are bribed: if you jump or let us push you in a shopping cart, we will give you five dollars or a pack of beer."

Davis compared the practice to dog fights.

"It often happens with drug dealers," he said.

"They have money to throw away, they either pay the guy with crack, heroin, or weed or a drink, they pay to fight and bet on the fight," he said.

Each night, 672,000 people sleep under a roof that is not their own in the United States, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says. Between 2.5 and 3.5 million sleep on the streets or in a shelter at least once a year.

Out of the nearly 3,000 homeless living in Washington, according to official figures -- though homeless advocates say the number is at least twice that -- one-third say they have been victims of violence.

Close to the Watergate apartment complex, known for a political scandal that led to the resignation of former president Richard Nixon, Yoshio Nakada, 61, was murdered in his sleep on Christmas Eve last year after suffering what police believe were hatchet blows that split his skull.

A 25,000-dollar reward has been posted for information about who may have been responsible for his death.

In April 2008, a 16-year-old beat Brian Michael Myers, 49, to death with an aluminum baseball bat in Glen Burnie, Maryland, just outside Washington.

Stoops said that in the 10 years his group has been tracking crimes against the homeless, 95 percent of the perpetrators were found to be men, most under the age of 25. They came from all economic classes and the vast majority -- 85 percent -- were white.

Faced with the scourge of violence, some states are taking measures. In October, Maryland is set to expand its hate crimes law to increase for the first time the penalties for attacks against the homeless.

Five states are considering similar measures, while the District of Columbia (Washington) approved such legislation earlier this month. A bill tackling the spate of attacks is also under consideration in Congress.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

An Unpleasant “Sub Species” Not Behaving the Way We Wish – or Precious Souls Deserving of Help?
Written by Jeremy Reynolds

Can you imagine someone waking up in the morning and announcing “Today I want to be homeless.”What would you think if you got a Tweet or a Facebook status which starts “What’s on your mind?” and you answered the same way, “By the end of the day I plan to be homeless.”
Precious Soul

It just wouldn’t happen, would it? No one plans to be homeless, but as a result of certain issues we have experienced which impact our ability to successfully provide for ourselves, we through no fault of our own may end up homeless.

However, as we began to think about the way some people regard the homeless, it occurred to us that many times they are looked at as a different and many times unpleasant sub-species; one which we’ve named “Homo Sapiens Secus.”

In case you’re wondering what that means, it describes a category of people who while human don’t quite behave in the way the larger species (us) would wish. Stick with us for a tongue-in-cheek look to whether you may have relegated the homeless in Albuquerque, or in whichever city you live, to the category of “homo sapiens secus.”

Members of homo sapiens secus could be thought of as being structurally challenged. Sometimes, when describing them the definition can falsely include statements such as “All homeless people are ....” Remember: the only thing all homeless people “are” is exactly that: homeless.

Did you know that due to a volatile combination of economic and political issues, the two segments of this species increasing at an alarming rate are families and armed forces veterans? Think about this; if all members of homo sapiens secus were to choose a unified approach to something, there would be a radical change in the way our country takes care of its poor and disenfranchised.

Had you thought that members of the homo sapiens secus species live all over the world. They can often be found during the day congregating around public places, within close proximity to religious and many times government funded non- profit organizations. Loners can admittedly occur in the habitat, but become more sociable when in need of personal facilities or food. There is a solidarity between members of this population that many times transcends race, gender and religion. If they have “it,” and someone else can use “it,” they are very willing to give.

However, there is also an unwritten rule between members of the homo sapiens secus species. “If it's not yours, don't touch it.” They can be extremely protective of their few belongings, which many times represent all of their worldly possessions. Something as simple as a back-pack with a couple of changes of clothes and some shoes can represent everything they own.

Sometimes, out of desperation and to the eminent concern of similar individuals not of their subset, homo sapiens secus members congregate in old, abandoned buildings, tents and even public parks. Among other things this helps give them a feeling of belonging and community, something they have been craving for a long time.

Their diet is anything and everything one can possibly imagine. Depending on the physical condition of members of homo sapiens secus, specific to their relative level of pride, their diet can vary from soup-kitchen fare to leftovers from dumpsters. The latter can, not surprisingly, create serious health issues.

Members of homo sapiens secus tend to have a migratory pattern that is hard to pin down. Species members tend to follow numerous variables when establishing their migratory habits.

Four issues make a profound impact on their day-to-day movements. The ability to obtain recreational pharmaceuticals and alcohol-based substances, as well as the ability to obtain food and shelter. Members of the larger species rarely take the time to inquire what issues those belonging to the smaller species have encountered that make them crave alcohol and drugs.

Two favorite statements from members of the larger species when commenting about the sub group are, “You’d never find me homeless,” and “If that was me, I’d get a job.”

How to obtain funds to achieve those four goals can be a driving force behind the ever changing priority structure of homo sapiens secus. Sometimes, that can lead to group members compromising their health and safety.

Members of homo sapiens secus can have multiple personality types that may in part depend on life’s experiences, as well as the stress level they have encountered finding drugs, alcohol, food and shelter. These states of mind can range from deeply depressive to prescription-enhanced euphoria. Anything in between is also possible.

The general perception of members of this sub-group by numerous members of the larger species tragically includes descriptive words like, “lazy ” and “bum,” and phrases like, “They want to be homeless.”

Most members of homo sapiens secus are forced to use a learned formed of intelligence that is foreign to members of the larger species. The ability to survive in their environment requires a shift in priorities, often resulting in a compromise of core issues. They are adept at surviving, and even more adept at adapting.

Those individuals described as homo sapiens secus are very capable of handling most things thrown at them, and are very hard to shock or scare. Incidentally, threatening a homo sapiens secus can produce a response similar to that of a cornered animal, fighting for its cave. It’s not a smart idea.

Those individuals intimately familiar with this species, who have actually ventured into their habitat, say the best way to help members of homo sapiens secus, is through empathy – also known as care and concern.

People who have devoted their lives to studying this population say an empathetic understanding of the struggles endemic to this population produces startlingly successful results. Academicians say that much more research needs to be devoted to this approach, but the current economic climate is making the possibility of research grants increasingly unlikely.

As a result of a lack of care and understanding by the larger population, including laws and attitudes which have attempted to drive this smaller group out of sight in the hope that they will just “go away,” some members of homo sapiens secus have criminal records which never “go away.” Discovery of this criminal record by the larger population often further distances members of homo sapiens secus from reentering the larger and more accepted group.

Funds are being sought by Joy Junction Homeless Shelter, which has a successful track record in this regard, to help reintegrate members of homo sapiens secus back into the larger population. Those interested should go to