Five national news stories to catch up on.

BY: JESSE CALL, Contributing Writer

1. A jury in Athens, Georgia is deciding whether or not to convict a man accused of targeting two women for rape, sodomy, and other sexual battery just because they were homeless and addicted to drugs. Avery Christopher Bradford, 47, was charged with rape after the two women came forward with allegations. The second rape allegedly occurred three months after Bradford was released on his own recognizance after spending one year in jail on the previous charge. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that the prosecutor told the jury “These two women were brutally raped by this man for his own pleasure…They didn’t ask for it; they didn’t deserve it.” Bradford’s public defender stood up for his client saying that he believed in his innocence and that these alleged sexual incidents were merely payment for drugs.

2. A man who says he became homeless as a result of Hurricane Katrina has been ordered by the Colorado Department of Transportation to abandon his camp alongside a road outside Pueblo, the Associated Press reports. The department has accused the man of trespassing and being a nuisance. He was given three days to leave, but has not retained an attorney who is challenging the order.

3. Police in South Bend, Indiana are investigating whether shots fired at a man standing in line for a church weather amnesty shelter were the result of a hate crime based on the man’s housing status. The South Bend Tribune reports the man had a hole in his clothing but was not injured when a driver indiscriminately fired at him outside a United Methodist church. The man said he had no known enemies.

4. Lawmakers in Rhode Island are debating one legislators proposal to created a “Homeless Bill of Rights” to protect people from discrimination in public housing and employment. Democratic Sen. John Tassoni is introducing the bill for a hearing in the Senate, according to the Associated Press. Advocates say the bill is necessary because people without homes are discriminated not only in these areas but in other basic liberties like sitting in the park.

5. The Knoxville News Sentinel issued a scathing editorial against Tennessee lawmakers after the state fell 14 spots in the rankings of states offering the best services and protections to children experiencing homelessness. The National Center on Family Homelessness issued its “America’s Youngest Outcasts of 2010” report in which Tennessee now ranks 39th compared to its ranking of 24th in 2006, a move the newspaper called “the wrong direction.” The newspaper admitted it is unlikely state legislators beginning their session in Nashville will take the time to address the problem, but countered that  “[i]t’s time lawmakers begin paying attention.” The editorial said the issue goes beyond housing because children experiencing homelessess suffer many more negative health effects and struggle to succeed in basic educational goals which is costly to the state.