This is how it starts:
I broke the law once in my life – and it was not an act to consciously hurt someone. All my life I have never wanted, and still do not want, to hurt anyone – and apart from my foolishness 14 years ago don’t imagine that I have.
Now, however, as a registrant, I live in daily fear of my life being taken. I’m posting here just so someone, somewhere, maybe, can read about it, and maybe take something positive from it.
It was posted on the members’ forum here at Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. on December 23, 2014. As I am an admin on that forum, I check it as often as time allows.
It went on to describe the reasons the writer, Todd, a disabled veteran and a registrant on the New York public sex offender registry for a sexual crime committed in 2000, has for fearing his life could be at risk.
Flyers with his name, picture, and apartment number were posted on the ground floor of his apartment building in the Rockaway area in Queens, NYC. He suspected a local community board of posting them. He continued writing:
…neighbors [started getting] involved, at least one of whom has come to my door three times to harass me, and posted bills up in my hallway with the word “DEAD” written across my face in black letters. My personal security camera system was vandalized and is now partially inoperable.
I’ve called the police four times in the last week. They take 30 minutes to arrive, which would be far too late if someone intended to break down my door and kill me.
If this article, posted in the Rockaway Wave, is indicative of the prevailing attitude toward registered citizens trying to get their lives together, just trying to survive long after their punishment has been completed, then the neighbors of Todd, who is named in the article along with others on the registry, are acting in concert with the neighborhood.
A former attorney, Todd sent a formal letter of Cease and Desist to the chair of the community board, the president of the Queens borough, and the office of the Mayor of New York City. He sent a copy to other city, law enforcement, and various other public officials and professionals. He included the full text of everything in the forum post, which he titled, “Alone, Helpless, & Living in Fear.” Later the same day, December 23, he posted this on the same thread:
Update: About 30 minutes ago someone attacked my door and broke through it. One of the panels was broken and left a hole you could put a two-liter of soda through. The police came and took another report, the 4th in 4 days. There’s little indication that the police think this is a threat against life, not a door.
It was at this point that I and another RSOL admin read what he had written and started corresponding with him on the forum, and I also sent emails and talked with him on the telephone.
I suggested trying to get outside help and, with his permission, contacted a personal friend in New York who has local connections.
The next day, he wrote on the forum that things had improved. His landlord moved him to another apartment, sent in people to help him crate things up and move, and assured him of working security cameras and of his own attempts to find out who was responsible for the damage and threats. Todd was grateful for their help as well as for the interest of RSOL.
His next forum post, February 11, six weeks later, was this:
I am sad to report that my situation has now gotten even worse.
Despite the assurances of my landlord that the place to which he moved me was “safe” (all the security cameras worked, etc.):
At 2:12 pm on February 9th while I was listening to Buddy Holly, my room’s window was smashed in and police grade pepper spray was sprayed into the room. I was home, and within a few minutes would become incapacitated as a consequence of this. I managed to call 911 and after about 8 minutes numerous responders were there, and I was taken to the hospital.
Unfortunately, my room was no longer livable, and my landlord had me take all of my stuff to a U Haul storage.
I am currently staying at the JFK Radisson, and my funds and resources will run out within days.
My NY friend had done some investigating and found that most shelters won’t take registered citizens, but she did have a couple respond favorably and suggested a place called Mainchance to him if things reached that point. They appear to have done so. In spite of long periods of no Internet connection, he finally saw her email. He replied to her, and to me, with the news of his hospitalization and imminent homelessness and concluded with:
As you might imagine, I have made every possible effort to get into some other rental or rooming situation in the last 3 days, but most of my papers and other things I need for this (like a credit report) aren’t available – and in any case usually take time. In my possession right now I have my ID and other important cards (Social Security, health insurance, ID), my laptop computer, and a single set of clothes, which I’ve been wearing since just after the attack on the 9th. And that’s it.
If I do not find another place to live in the next 24 to 48 hours, I will be homeless – and most of my stuff will have been destroyed or lost…I’m not sure how much or often I will be able to be on the Internet or get email from now on.
If I am not able to see or hear from you in the future, thanks for what you have done.
And then on February 14—Valentine’s Day—at 6:45 a.m. he sent this:
All of my efforts to obtain some accommodation have failed. I am going to the homeless shelter on 30th street in NYC.
From now on, I have no idea what will happen or where I will end up.
That is the last communication I have had from him. My emails have gone unanswered. He has posted nothing further on the forum. I have no idea if I will ever hear from or of him again. * see addendum
This is Todd’s story, and it is appropriate that it conclude with his words. He started by saying that he hoped his experience and his writings would result in something positive, in some way, for someone. If there is anything positive to be gleaned from any of this, it is here, in these words:
I would guess that I do not need to elucidate on the fact that while I have been the victim of numerous crimes in the last two months, all engendered by my status on the registry, it should be obvious to anyone that whoever or whatever group is doing these kinds of attacks are much more of a danger to the community than a typical registrant.
One of the staff from the Rockaway units that was assigned to help the landlord’s son-in-law move my stuff to the U Haul in Far Rockaway said, “Well, you can go start a new life somewhere.” That’s why I moved to NYC and into the spaces rented there in the first place. You can’t start a new life anywhere if everywhere you go people force you to start a new life somewhere else, and strike at you with vicious and destructive violence if you don’t leave.
*Addendum: Finally, on February 22, I received this from Todd:
Hello Sandy, thanks for your concern.
I entered the NYC Homeless Shelter system on 14 February, at the 30th Street Center. On 17 February I was able to arrange (simply because I stumbled across a veteran’s office within that shelter) a transfer to an assessment shelter called BRC in Brooklyn. On the 20th, I was transferred to a veteran’s shelter on 89 Porter Street, also in Brooklyn. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before that I am in fact a service-connected disabled veteran, in addition to my other status. The veteran’s shelter is much more dignified than the others, and the food is better. I have several (about half a dozen) appointments in the coming weeks, some for medical care and some for assessment to participate in veteran’s housing programs. I most likely do not qualify for HUD-VASH, which is the only active section 8 program allocating new housing vouchers for homeless people in the country, because of my status as a sex offender, However, I do qualify for something called SSVF, which should enable me to get a room somewhere even with my low level of income. I don’t know how long this takes, but the accommodations available locally are at best a room with roommates, or possibly an SRO room (where you have no roommates, but no kitchen or bathroom).
Going forward I will continue to explore what other kinds of options are available. My own experience here makes it all the more obvious how difficult, if not tragic or impossible, it is for RSOs who are not fortunate enough to be military veterans to get some kind of basic help to get housing even if they have a low or moderate income, much less something relatively safe or stable.
Once again, thanks for your inquiry.