January 15, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 3


What’s not to like?

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

Facebook flap the latest in struggle between homeless youth advocacy group and its former director

Photo by Jon Williams / Arts Editor

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Facebook has found itself involved in a bitter dispute between the local homeless youth advocacy organization Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) and its ousted former director, Elaine Simons.

Simons was pushed out of PSKS in 2012 after money troubles nearly forced the organization to close its doors. Simons mounted a fundraising campaign to save the organization but was not able to keep her job. (“Street kids at a crossroads,” RC, Dec. 19, 2012)

Since then, Simons has met with PSKS clients and alumni under the name “OUR” PSKS. Beginning in October, Simons and her supporters met on a Facebook page under a group she administered titled “OUR” PSKS.

On Dec. 30, Simons received an email notification from Facebook that the group was shut down. According to the notification, Facebook does not handle disputes between two parties and cannot allow the group to operate without permission from PSKS.

“If you believe that this content should not have been removed from Facebook, you can contact the complaining party directly to resolve your issue,” Facebook administrators said in an email.

Simons believes the move was unfair and was disappointed to lose documents and photographs group members had posted since it started in October.

“We weren’t doing anything illegal,” Simons said. “We even had a disclaimer saying that by no means were we representing the agency.”

The board of PSKS appointed Susan Fox as interim executive director in December 2012 (“Agency aimed at street youth finds hope in new leader, new location,” RC, Oct. 16, 2013).

Fox declined to comment for this story.

It’s not the first time “OUR” PSKS has run afoul of PSKS. The group organized a holiday party that provided gifts for 27 children and winter gear for more than 35 homeless adults on Dec. 24, scheduled at the same time as another holiday party organized by PSKS.

Just before Christmas, an attorney for PSKS, Alan Smith, sent a formal letter asking Simons to cease using the name “OUR” PSKS because it misrepresented the organization.

In the letter, Smith said people cannot add a word before a copyrighted name and claim it for their own. It wouldn’t work to start an organization called “OUR” Google or “OUR” Microsoft, he said.



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