January 9, 2013

A new lease on life

1-9-2013 Washington:

Snohomish woman rents U-District homes to sex offenders, felons

A yellowed page of an old newspaper is taped to the wall of Carol Clarke’s aging U-District rental office. In bold letters, it reads: “Abstinence. It works every time.” Jesus looks down from several paintings atop the windowsill, and a “no smoking” sign hangs crookedly behind the desk.

Most people have retired by their mid-70s. But Clarke, 74, is still on the job, renting rooms in her five U-District homes to sex offenders, felons, and the mentally disabled. Clarke believes that everybody deserves a home and a second chance.

“I just feel like if a person is interested in becoming a better human being, then someone better give him a leg up,” she said.

Often times, it’s difficult for sex offenders and felons to find housing, so Clarke is well known behind prison bars and among law enforcement officials.

How it all began

Born in Tacoma and raised in Seattle, Clarke spent the first eight years of her life on a chicken farm.

Many years later, she still hasn’t outgrown her affinity for animals. Now widowed, Clarke lives alone on her farm in Snohomish. When she’s not busy tending to her cows and chickens, she is hard at work interviewing prospective renters, filling out leases, and sorting out details with officials at the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) with regard to her tenants.

Although Clarke has been leasing her homes for many years, she only began renting to people with criminal records 15 years ago.

It began when she found out one of her tenants was a sex offender. Clarke consulted the man’s corrections officer, then gave her tenant a firm talking to. His determination to change, Clarke said, is what inspired her to continue renting to ..continued... by Lily Katz

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