FL Sex Offenders, No Escape from Cold

January 8, 2010

miamiherald.com: For sex offenders, no escape from cold –With more cold weather coming over the weekend, homeless sex offenders living under or near the Julia Tuttle Causeway are banned from shelters, and with no place to go, they have little choice but to remain there.

With South Florida in the grip of a record-setting cold snap, he and other sex offenders and predators who live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway huddle in their cars, nylon tents and wooden shacks. “We need help,” Norton said, teeth chattering. There’s little relief in the forecast. The National Weather Service reports temperatures will move into the 70s on Friday but that a strong Arctic cold front is expected to arrive Friday night bringing cold temperatures — again.

Those living under the Tuttle say they’ve been forgotten — save for a few souls who delivered blankets and generators a few weeks ago.

They said Thursday they knew they were not welcome at Miami-Dade County’s homeless shelters because they are sex offenders. Under state law, sex offenders can’t live within 1,000 feet of schools, child-care centers, parks or other areas where kids congregate. Miami-Dade has stricter requirements — a 2,500-foot ban.

After six days in a row of bone-chilling temperatures, they have run out of gas for the generators. Some say it’s just as well; few of them have space heaters.

Ron Book, head of Miami-Dade’s Homeless Trust, concedes that as sex offenders and predators, they aren’t able to stay in the shelters.
“They could probably search out some hotel, but they need resources for that,” Book said Thursday.

The county has had workers out there handing out blankets, he said, but there’s little else he can do that he hasn’t already tried.
Finding landlords who will accept them is increasingly difficult, and some — though not all — of the offenders refuse to leave.

Depending on whom you ask, from 34 to 70 sex predators and offenders still live under or near the bridge. Book has placed 40-45 of them so far, and he says his agency will continue its effort. “I feel bad, but they should talk to their probation officers — they are the ones who put them there,” Book said.

On Jan. 21, the Miami-Dade County Commission is scheduled to consider an ordinance that may ease the boundary that prohibits sex offenders and predators from living 2,500 feet from where children congregate. The new ordinance will instead create child-safety zones, whereby convicted molesters would be banned from loitering 300 feet from schools and other places where children congregate. It would also negate the hodgepodge of laws that vary from city to city in the county.

Volunteers from Pure Mercy, a faith-based charitable group from Pinellas, visited at Christmas, handing out grills, a new generator, gasoline, food and clothing. Executive Director David Lind said it was the third time they visited, and residents now think of him and his wife as if they were their mother and father.

“I don’t think anybody deserves to be punished for their entire life,’‘ Lind said. “These guys did what they did, there are very few who don’t admit what they did. In essence, it seems like they are being punished by society by being stuck in a corner.”

How is this making society safer?” one resident asked, pointing to the GPS monitor he must wear so that authorities know where he is every day. Many of them just remove the monitors or let them run out of power, so that they can go into hiding to find warmth, he said.

Previous related posts:
Man Responsible for Fla. Sex Offender Debacle (Ron Book is no angel).
Get-tough Stand is Too Expensive, isn’t Productive.
Miami Sex Offender Camp Leads to Lawsuit
80 Sex Offenders Living Under Miami Bridge
Miami’s Sex Offender Dilemma

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