Give Us Your Poor, Your Cold, Your Homeless—Unless They Are Sex Offenders

With the arrival of true winter weather and sub-freezing temperatures, especially in the northern and upper Atlantic coast states, stories are emerging about shelters being opened or expanding their services to accommodate the increased number of homeless people seeking a place to spend the night.

An extremely disturbing fact is woven into these reports, and it is one that civil rights and advocacy organizations such as National Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. strongly protests. It is being noticed and protested in advocacy blogs and posts.

Whether due to jurisdictional expectations, state or local legislation, or organizational rules, many of these shelters turn away a segment of the homeless society that is as much if not more in need of their services than any other segment. And they are targeted for exclusion based solely on their being in a broad category of people who have absolutely nothing in common other than that they are required to be registered as sex offenders.

A spokesperson at the True Vine Ministries shelter in Fayetteville, North Carolina who wishes to remain anonymous confirms that this is their policy and that no other category of citizen is excluded as a group. Additionally, Archie Ford, director of a homeless service organization in Sangamon County, Illinois, said that as far as he knows, none of their shelters will accept registered citizens. This is supported by a petition filed with the Illinois Supreme Court concerning released sex offenders who cannot find housing and the resulting consequences of them being returned to prison to serve their parole. According to Kim Campbell with the McLean County Public Defender’s Office, “We have no transitional housing here and the shelters won’t take sex offenders.”

Now a New York city councilman wants a ban in place prohibiting registered citizens from seeking shelter in any of New York’s family shelters. In Suffolk, Virginia, a city-wide initiative to provide shelter for the homeless during the winter months includes this as part of their public notification: “Names are also run through the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.” They do not speak further on this, but past experiences have shown only one reason to identify registrants, and that is to exclude them.

In Jackson County, North Carolina, even shelters not operational yet but still being planned make this automatic exclusion of those on the registry a prerequisite.

Obviously, for many shelters, the rules are simple; you are welcome unless you have previously caused a serious problem while a guest with them OR unless you are a registered sex offender. If you are on the registry, you don’t get in, and this is based on nothing but being part of a group who are as totally diverse in deeds and character as it is possible to be. Most had a single offense, many fifteen and twenty and even thirty years ago. Some of the offenses were misdemeanors. Many of the offenses were statutory. Most were non-violent. Many were non-contact. Some were not even sexually related. Some—some studies suggest up to a third—were committed when the offender was a child or a minor. A significant number are due to false accusations and wrongful convictions. And some were very serious offenses such as rape and child molestation.

On the other hand, no screening is done for convicted murderers, or drug dealers, or arsonists, or persons who have committed violent, non-sexual assaults. These too are very serious offenses. These individuals are all given the opportunity to exhibit proper behavior and will be welcome as long as they do so. The re-offense rate for all of these types of crime—with the exception of murder—is much, much higher than that for repeating a sexual offense. Why are registrants not extended the same “Behave, you stay; misbehave, you’re out” treatment?

The fact is that individuals are not excluded from shelters, just as they are not excluded from any aspect of life or social services once they have served their sentences, based on their crimes. They are excluded based on their names being in a public, searchable sex-offender database.

The fact is that most sexual crime—as high as 96%–is committed by those who are not on the registry. [1] Thus, a shelter will, in excluding registrants, exclude those who will commit only a tiny percentage of tomorrow’s sexual offenses. Furthermore, some who have committed serious sexual offenses have managed to work out “sweetheart” deals that keep them off the registry. They would enter a shelter with no impediment, rendering the entire procedure an exercise in futility.

This inflated fear of and preoccupation with sexual assault recently caused a shelter to refuse entry to a fifteen-year-old young man who was with his family. The family was welcome; he was not. The shelter’s reasoning was that if they put him in the men’s quarters, someone there could sexually assault him, and if they put him in the women and children’s quarters, he could sexually assault someone there. He had no history of ever committing such a crime, but—he could!

RSOL reiterates its strong condemnation of the practice of excluding registrants for no reason other than that, at sometime in the past, they were convicted of an offense that required them to be placed on a sex offender registry. This practice of continuing to punish this classification of crime, and no other, years after the court-ordered punishment has ended must stop. There is no public safety benefit in this practice, and registrants’ lives are placed in jeopardy every day because of it.

 

(1) Sandler J, Freeman NJ, Socia KM.Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State’s sex offender registration and notification law. Psychol Public Policy Law 2008;14(4):284–302.

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    • #11568 Reply
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      Lance Tito

      Great read and so unfortunately true. Shameful and disgraceful behavior.

    • #11569 Reply
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      James

      I keep saying on here that this whole sex registry thing is wrong. Now if shelters won’t take the sex offender but all others than we know there stance on God and we should make it public. God is no respecter of person’s, even judges, councilman, or people who run shelters and those officials that make up these human suffering law’s. I am so glad God loves the sex offender that made a mistake. I wonder if He love’s society if they make a mistake or the Supreme Court or those others that murder or rob others.
      Seek the word of God before you seek the word of man because man doesn’t really care about the sex offender.

    • #11570 Reply
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      Linda

      In one of the second largest cities in Michigan a shelter would not let a SO stay the night in the middle of Winter because they are near a school..this was on a weekend and the school was not even open at that time..this poor soul froze to death! This is not nazi Germany is it????

    • #11571 Reply
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      M Mejia

      My father is a sixty-eight year old registered sex offender with dementia and it is very difficult looking for any (apartment, convalescent home, etc.) type of place for him. He can’t come home seeing as we live by a school and a library. He can barely walk, let alone do any harm to another person, yet he is still denied better care.

    • #11572 Reply
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      Mary Paul

      This story is very upsetting. I agree God is forgiving and we as a people should be as well especially since it is well known that SO are less likely to reoffend then others. I believe it is time shelter were provided for SO’s, I now the government will not do so but maybe it is time that some of the organizations that support rehabilitation need to get together and do something. her in Colorado Springs it is well documented that 67% of the SO’s released have no where to go so they live on the streets.

    • #11573 Reply
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      James Townsend

      Mary, there are law’s that are against discrimination today. There are cover-ups and it seems the law is taking full advantage of the Sex offender that may or may not had a real victim. Sure they classify them as SVP’s but who can know the hearts of people. There are many sex offenders in Governments. Now I don’t want to touch on gay’s but if you get the picture. Its a bias situation Same with females. This is a perverse nation. While the sex offender is treated like the common leaper in society. Governments with there scare tactic’s have done there best to compound these efforts. Human humanity doesn’t extend to the sex offender because of these law’s and how they go about scaring the public at large. Governments need to understand that sexually and perversion have been on this earth since the dawn of time.
      I can see how this would make anyone upset when they are discrimination and hold a bias to the sex offender that might of just been caught up an all this madness.

    • #11574 Reply
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      Garcia

      Why don’t we put together a petition for specific reform to congress and post it on change.org. I don’t have experience with petitions, so maybe someone else can help out. Then we can all sign it.

    • #11575 Reply
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      Lorraine

      This year we have had a long, horrific winter in the Northeast. Our local shelter refuses entry to registered offenders. Thirty five homeless died on our county streets last year. The number of those thirty five who were offenders is unknown. It’s criminal what our society is doing. The registry laws and local ordinances are extreme, abusive and need to be changed. A well reasoned and rational approach is needed to address the issues of sexual misconduct.

    • #11576 Reply
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      james

      The homeless shelter in Roanoke Virginia called the Roanoke rescue mission allows sex offenders to stay there.google it

    • #11577 Reply
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      David

      It’s a cold and saddening fact, that this all came about, from John Walsh, and his hatred for SO’s and for what was committed to his son. AND all this is the trickle down effect of his hatred. Society, has built up so much distaste for RSO’s over watching AMW and John Walsh, that they then get on their soapbox, and continue his fight. AND it is my belief that society, makes these rule’s aka Law’s. To continue the punishment, and harassment of RSO’s so that 1. they break the weak willed RSO’s down to the point they take their own life. And I can hear society now saying OH WELL, one less SRO we have to worry about touching our kids. ( to put it nicely) 2. They make it so hard for the RSO that they have no choice but to go back to prison just to survive or die on the street.
      This why, it will be a long hard road, BUT, we need to become as one and stand up and say enough is enough Thanks for reading and stay strong and keep the faith

    • #11578 Reply
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      David

      Sorry, as a after thought, I was reading something here in Pa. and how the courts say that, this new law is not punitive damage, and it has to effect the law, to be punitive.

      Well, my argument is this and this is food for thought people, and start asking this to the lawmakers. OK, you say this new LAW is not punishment, yet you call it a LAW, and if we dont follow it we break the law, and get punished. AND the state police here in Pennsylvania have a called the Megan’s Law Section that over see’s RSO’s.. So how can you say it is not punitive damage, when you call it a law and there are punishments.
      If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck its a duck.

    • #11579 Reply
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      Ed

      No victims, just a one time look-see online out of simple curiosity, and suddenly your name is LEGION. You’ve never hurt anyone, never tried to get it on with anyone whose a minor, never tried to make an assignation online. But now you are a SEX OFFENDER! The most despicable species on the planet. You serve a 97 months prison term, in danger of being offed by murderers or drug dealers, crimes considered more respectable by your fellow inmates–and society itself, apparently. After all, the badly flawed 1987 child porn law says that if you have ever been curious enough to go to a sting site online, you are actually a vicious, dangerous predator, who must be hounded all the way to an ignominious grave. You’re actually just like a Jew in Nazi Germany, and kristalnacht has just happened. PEOPLE!!! IT IS ALL HAPPENING AGAIN!! AND IT DOESN”T EVEN REQUIRE A DEMENTED FUHRER! JUST A DEMENTED POPULATION!

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