Five level 2 and level 3 sex offenders living at one address in a residential neighborhood in Chehalis is causing concern for community members and law enforcement in the community.
“Having so many sex offenders in one location, I’m not comfortable with that,” said Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer.
Representatives from the property management company that owns the house, as well as the state Department of Corrections, which monitors the sex offenders, said the community is better served and protected when registered sex offenders are not homeless.
“I know nobody wants to live next to a sex offender,” said Scott Albert, supervisor of the DOC’s local office. “They’ve got to go somewhere. If somebody’s homeless and needs a place to stay, we let them stay there.”
According to sex offender registration information, five sex offenders live at the house. The three are level 3 sex offenders, the highest risk to reoffend, are Michael Gonzales-Fox, Steven Hooper and Rodney Matlock. The other two level 2 sex offenders are Kenneth Howard and Sheldon Moren.
“That shouldn’t stop them from getting housing,” said Heath McGee, who manages the property, among others, for Washington State Affordable Housing LLC, a company that provides low-cost housing.
McGee said the company works to help people who struggle to find housing, whether because of a criminal conviction or other issues.
The Franklin Avenue house is the company’s only house designated for sex offenders, he said. McGee said the first resident moved in about a month ago, and described it as a “pilot program.”
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “It was kind of my idea. I honestly believe everyone deserves compassion and everyone deserves a place to live.”
McGee said the company isn’t looking to make a profit off the project.
“It’s more a morality thing,” he said. “Everybody needs a place to live.”
After release from DOC custody, offenders are sent back to their county of origin, but Albert said small or rural counties, such as Lewis County, don’t have a lot of resources for housing people who, because of a criminal record or especially a sex offense, would have trouble finding housing.
“Is the community better off if they’re homeless?” Albert said. “The community’s much more at risk when these guys don’t have a place to go.”
Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes, a retired police officer, said he wasn’t aware of the house before being contacted by The Chronicle, and said he planned to check into whether the house complied with zoning regulations.
“I’m a little concerned about it,” he said. “If it’s all legal, other than being concerned about it there’s not a lot we can do.”
Schaffer said he had forwarded information on the house to the city’s community development department.
Albert said his office has received one complaint about the residence, but the complaint didn’t involve behavior of the residents. Instead, the person complained about mold at the home.
Albert said the presence of mold wouldn’t violate the DOC’s requirements for the people living there. He said the use appears to comply with city regulations and doesn’t violate conditions of the offenders’ release from DOC custody.
McGee noted complaints about the house have been focused on the presence of sex offenders in the neighborhood, rather than new offenses committed by the residents.
Gonzales-Fox, 25, has convictions for third-degree rape of a child, luring with sexual motivation and first-degree child molestation. Hooper, 30, has a conviction for first-degree sexual abuse out of Oregon and a 2010 Lewis County Superior Court conviction for two counts of second-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Matlock, 59, was convicted in 2000 of first-degree rape of a child in Lewis County Superior Court. He has an Oregon conviction for first-degree sex abuse involving a child.
Howard, 55, was convicted in Virginia in 1994 of sodomy and aggravated sexual battery involving a child. Moren, 56, was convicted in 1989 of two counts of indecent liberties in Thurston County involving children. He has also been convicted of failing to register as a sex offender.
The company plans to move the sex-offender house to what McGee termed a more suitable location in Centralia soon.