By Sandy . . . For persons listed on a sexual offense registry, homelessness is sometimes a reality, and the uncertainty of finding emergency shelter or homeless facilities that welcome registrants is even more of a reality.
I have for a week been identifying such places, and, even though I am sure there are more – many more, I hope – I want to give these places a special shout-out and huge thank you for not excluding anyone on the basis of a label and past behaviors.
I was motivated to write this piece when dealing with a situation in West Virginia where a city councilman was criticizing the local mission for taking in those on the registry indiscriminately, even if they were not original residents of the town or county. The Clarksburg Mission in Clarksburg, West Virginia, like NARSOL, recognizes that facilities for the homeless and hopeless who are also registrants are not found on every street corner, and they remain consistent in their dedication to serve anyone in need of their services regardless of their origins or their background. They offer both emergency and longer-term services to all and can accommodate both men and women.
In Kalispell, Montana, the Flathead Warming Center has changed locations and plans to have the new one at Christ Church Episcopal open by Christmas. This is strictly an overnight shelter from cold Montana nights on the street for the homeless needing a place to sleep and a meal. The only requirement for admittance is good behavior while in the center.
In Rockford Illinois, a town already known for its initiatives in reducing homelessness, the Overnight Café serves as an emergency shelter from the weather and sleeping on the street for the homeless. Housed in the SecondFirst Church, the Overnight Café especially welcomes those who have difficulty finding shelter elsewhere, and that includes those listed on sexual offense registries.
The City Walk Urban Mission in Tallahassee, Florida, is a mission dedicated to serving the homeless with what they need for immediate shelter and meals as well as programs designed to help them transition back into society. Their slogan, “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future,” translates into action that recognizes that all people are deserving of redemption and an opportunity to move beyond their past, no matter how serious or harmful it may have been.
Minnesota is known for its frigid winters, and the Union Gospel Mission, serving the homeless in several locations in the Twin Cities, is a blessing to those in need of their services. With temporary shelter facilities for men, women, and families, they also offer services and programs to meet a variety of needs to help the homeless transition back into society. Some of the programs are especially fitting for those with the extra burden of being a registered sexual offender.
Just before publication, I was sent the name of the Promise Mission in Marion, Illinois. Their services appear to include both emergency and temporary type shelter. I have not had time to confirm that they do accept registrants, but this is stated in their program description: “No individual shall be denied help from the Promise Mission.”
And then there is Ohio – the entire state. I have been told that a state law is in place requiring all emergency cold-weather shelters to accept everyone, even registrants, when the temperature reaches a temperature of 40. Again, in spite of copious searches through the Ohio statutes and legislative site, I have been unable to confirm this. If true, Ohio, we commend you. I did find this, which clearly suggests that homeless persons on the registry are welcome in at least some Ohio shelters.
No one deserves to sleep, hungry and freezing, on the streets, and especially not when a shelter or mission is available but has a policy of excluding those on the registry. NARSOL will protest and fight against these exclusionary policies wherever and whenever we are able.
We appreciate so much those of you who are moved to the knowledge that all life has value and that all who seek redemption deserve it. And for those with the generosity of spirit to be part of a shelter or mission outreach program for the homeless and welcome all without discrimination, NARSOL extends to you our sincerest appreciation.
And to everyone….a blessed Christmas, happy holiday, and good new year.
Additionally identified locations: Information on other shelters accepting of registrants will be added as they are verified.
Added 12/20/19 – Meeting Ground in Elkton, MD: This mission runs a comprehensive shelter service for the homeless and does not discriminate against those registered as sexual offenders.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.