Group accuses counselor of harassing homeless women

Group accuses counselor of harassing homeless women

(WMC-TV) - The state is investigating a man accused of sexually harassing the homeless women he is supposed to be helping and a Mid-South group wants him to lose his job.

Homeless advocates say 92 percent of homeless women have been sexually or physically assaulted.

Now they claim some have been subjected to verbal abuse at a state-funded facility where they seek help.

About a dozen people associated with Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE) gathered to protest outside the PEER Center on Madison Avenue.

"We want to raise public awareness about the fact that this is happening, that these are human beings and we're not going to tolerate this happening to our members," said Brad Watkins, of HOPE.

The organization claims an unnamed PEER center employee has made repeated, unwanted sexual advances on homeless clients yet still remains on the job.

"This person who's supposed to be a peer counselor is exhibiting this behavior, so it's not just disgusting behavior it's damaging to the therapeutic environment," said Watkins.

The PEER center is licensed and funded through the Tennessee Mental Health Consumer Association.

"We were just made aware of this situation yesterday," said a state spokesman. "We take it very seriously and will be investigating very thoroughly."

"Is it too much to ask that women experiencing homelessness not be sexually harassed at a place that's supposed to be serving them, by someone who's supposed to be a counselor," asked Watkins.

A phone message left at the PEER center has not yet been returned.

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