Fla. Sex Offenders Evicted From Temporary Housing

April 20, 2010

npr.org: Fla. Sex Offenders Evicted From Temporary Housing.

A group of sex offenders who previously lived under a South Florida bridge are again homeless, after being kicked out of a hotel that some had been living in for months.

More than 100 sex offenders set up camp under the bridge in 2007, saying they were unable to live elsewhere because of a stringent county ordinance. Earlier this year, workers took sledgehammers to wooden shacks and huts beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway and took down tents, tearing down the shantytown.

A homeless organization found shelter for the offenders in apartments, trailer parks and hotels at taxpayer expense. About 30 offenders had been living in a Homestead Studio Suites hotel when a manager told them Saturday they had two hours to vacate the property. Roughly half were on probation.

Since then, some of the offenders have been living in their cars camped outside of the probation office. “They were terrified that they were going to be in violation of probation through no fault of their own,” said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of ACLU Florida. In some cases, the county was paying $1,000 a month per offender to live in the hotel because they couldn’t find more affordable, permanent housing.

The ACLU is challenging the county’s 2,500 foot residency restriction, saying that state law, which imposes a 1,000 foot restriction, pre-empts local government.

It’s unclear what prompted the hotel to evict the offenders. One of the boarders was arrested last week for a sex offense involving a minor at a nearby shopping center, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

The agency is working with each offender to find them housing. Some have moved in with other sex offenders, some are giving street locations as residences, some will likely spend another night at the probation office, Plessinger said.

“It’s their job to find themselves a place to live. We will assist them because we need to know where they are. If we don’t know where they are we can’t supervise them,” she said.

Residents said they became aware of the sex offenders’ presence when police distributed fliers listing the parolees’ names and photos at the hotel’s lobby.

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