Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has been asked to veto legislation S0897 that would cap the number of registered sex offenders at 10 percent for residential facilities receiving state funding that serve as homeless shelters by advocates for the homeless. The bill was sponsored by Senators Hanna Gallo (District 36) and Frank Lombardi (District 26), Democrats from Cranston.
In a letter, advocates write, “While this bill purports to enhance public safety by de-concentrating registered sex offenders (RSOs), its effect is the opposite. It does nothing to provide alternative housing or community placement for the 40 to 50 individuals who will be displaced by its passage, thereby forcing these individuals literally onto the street. This creates a potential threat to the safety of both the community at large and the RSOs who will be forced out of shelter.”
The advocates claim that the legislation forces “individuals out of the shelters where they are engaged in case management and mental health treatment and where their presence is known and documented.” The legislation also “works against attempts by RSOs and support providers to re-integrate these individuals into the community by identifying housing, employment, and community-based care.”
Further, the legislation “does nothing to address the causes of homelessness among RSOs and places RSOs in physical danger…
“…forcing individuals out of shelter will not alleviate their homelessness – the problem is that there are not enough housing opportunities available to those experiencing homelessness, particularly those who must register as sex offenders.”
The letter notes that “the bill’s House sponsor has publicly stated that he wishes to use the bill as a way to catalyze this conversation, a discussion about identifying housing options for RSOs did not occur in the three months this bill was pending on the floor, and realistically will not occur in any substantial form prior to the bill’s implementation. What will happen instead is that the displaced RSOs will – as a best case – subsist in the woods, under bridges, and in alleyways with minimal connection to services. Many will become re-incarcerated for administrative registry violations at great expense to the taxpayer. Others may freeze to death or be murdered.”
The letter was signed by Laura Jaworski, MSW, executive director House of Hope; Eileen Hayes, president/CEO Amos House; Diana D Burdett, executive director PICA; Barbara Freitas, director Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project; Bella Robinson, Coyote RI; Professor Andrew Horwitz, Roger Williams University School of Law and Steven Brown, executive director American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.