CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte is now turning away registered sex offenders as officials try to help the offenders who already live there – some of them for several years – find jobs and homes of their own.
Shelter officials made the decision Friday to not accept any new registered offenders. But Executive Director Carson Dean said they’ve been trying to find a solution for months to the persistent homelessness and joblessness of some 50 sex offenders at the shelter.
“It’s very difficult for us,” Dean said. “Because of the offense that’s on their records, it just becomes very difficult for them to get a job, get someone to rent you an apartment.”
Homeless facilities like the Men’s Shelter often become a last resort for sex offenders who are released from prison and must report their addresses to the local sheriff’s office, according to local and state officials.
Between laws that restrict where sex offenders can live – nowhere near schools, child care centers or parks – and landlords who don’t want to rent to them, many have trouble finding a place to live, even temporarily.
And those “last resorts” often turn sex offenders away, too, according to a 2009 report from the state Department of Correction. The study shows many community-based shelters across the state have criteria that prevent them from accepting sex offenders.
Some turn sex offenders away because they don’t want to house them alongside women and children. Others, like the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, can’t handle the burden of sex offenders who often turn into lifetime shelter residents.
None living at the shelter will be kicked out. Dean hopes the decision to turn away new offenders will give shelter case managers more one-on-one time with the registered offenders there. “We’re going to help them find some place that they can be in compliance with their offender status,” Dean said.
Before the decision to no longer allow sex offenders, the shelter was taking in about two registered men a month. Just under 800 sex offenders are registered in Mecklenburg County, according to the N.C. Department of Justice.
Dean said he would like the Department of Corrections and other state and federal agencies play a bigger role in reducing the risk of homelessness for sex offenders. “It’s not the right thing for someone to be stuck in the shelter forever,” he said. “Whether they are coming out of a state or federal prison – those are the resources that should be helping them with housing.”
Department of Corrections officials Saturday were not immediately available for contact.
Shana Rowan, a spokeswoman for the New York-based USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry, a national nonprofit advocating for fair sex offender registry laws, said county and state legislators should examine how statutory requirements contribute to offender homelessness.
“When it comes to sex offenders, we’ve just legislated these people to the point where there’s nowhere for them to live,” Rowan said.