The People’s House decides not to accept high-risk sex offenders

Staff writerSeptember 12, 2013 

  • SHELTER FORUM

    Interfaith Works will hold another forum on a proposal for a low-barrier shelter at 7 p.m. Monday at Knox Center Gymnasium, 1113 Legion Way SE.

A low-barrier homeless shelter called The People’s House not only won’t be on 10th Avenue, but organizers no longer plan for it to accept Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, who are deemed a higher risk for reoffending.

That’s according to Interfaith Works, the consortium of faith communities that made the difficult decision this week to end its pursuit of placing a shelter at 1011 10th Ave. SE.

Interfaith Works says it will now only accept Level 1 offenders. According to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office website, they are defined as those who have not exhibited predatory characteristics and have participated in or are participating in treatment. Many are first-time offenders.

“These offenders are considered to be at the lowest risk for reoffense by the state Department of Corrections,” the group said in a statement this week. “For other registered sex offenders seeking shelter, The People’s House will develop methods to refer them to services that will safely and legally assist them in addressing their housing needs.”

Meg Martin, shelter coordinator for Interfaith Works, noted that other shelters accept Level 1 offenders, including Drexel House and a system of cold-weather shelters traditionally run by area faith communities.

Martin said the search for a shelter location continues. But the faith community is also looking for a temporary solution to replace a longtime system of cold-weather shelters that rotated among faith communities. It now appears that no permanent shelter will be in place by Nov. 1, the date when the cold-weather shelters typically open.

“It’s a little bit like we’re back to the drawing board,” Martin said.

Interfaith Works had been seriously considering the 10th Avenue site, which met many of the faith community’s criteria, such as proximity to social services. But many residents of the Eastside neighborhood objected, saying it would bring drug addicts and sex offenders close to schools.

Interfaith Works has been working with other area nonprofits, including Capital Recovery Center, on opening the planned 40-bed shelter. It’s known as a low-barrier shelter because shelter operators wouldn’t ask for identification and would accept people who often aren’t housed at other shelters, such as felons, sex offenders, couples and people with pets. The facility also would serve as a day center and consolidate the shelters that rotated among local churches during cold-weather months.

The 10th Avenue site was the third location the shelter group had seriously considered. Advocates had hoped to open the shelter Nov. 1 and fund it with $400,000 from Thurston County and $35,000 set aside by the Olympia City Council. To do so, they would have to sign a lease for a building and obtain a conditional use permit from the city of Olympia.

Some residents of the Eastside neighborhood, who joined together as Concerned Eastside Neighbors, were happy that the 10th Avenue location no longer is under consideration for the shelter. But a concern remained that the shelter might be placed somewhere else in the neighborhood.

Jessica Archer of Concerned Eastside Neighbors has said the group wants the city to place a moratorium on such shelters while new rules are developed that restrict how close they can be to schools.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869
mbatcheldor@theolympian.com
@MattBatcheldor

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