April 27, 2014

Community Meeting Discussing Halfway Housing Gets Heated

4-27-2014 South Carolina:

Outraged neighbors took on a Christian ministry they said is housing sex offenders and ex-cons in their neighborhood. The meeting held in Roebuck in Spartanburg County was so heated, extra deputies were called in to keep things from getting out of hand.

"Our community children are prisoners in their flipping homes... not your ex convicts. Put 'em back behind bars, we don't want them," shouted one woman.

The neighbors are angry about a mobile home park with 9 trailers, a dozen felons and at least 5 registered sex offenders.

The trailer homes are operated by a South Carolina prison ministry called “Jumpstart”.

The group helps former inmates find work and transitional housing after they’re released.

One board member said the inmates will be moving into local communities no matter what, so Jumpstart helps ease them back into civilian life with a pathway to jobs and housing so that the offenders are less likely to return to jail.

Thursday, more than 200 Roebuck and Pauline residents gathered to air their grievances to Jumpstart founder, Tim Terry, Senator Shane Martin, and other speakers on hand to offer solutions.

Nearly 3 hours later, many in attendance told 7 On Your Side reporter, Addie Hampton, they were more frustrated leaving the meeting than going into it, feeling the heated back and forth got them nowhere.

Kim Condry lives in the trailer park along with the Jumpstart ministries residents. She was in tears explaining the fears she shares with many in attendance.

"My six year old loved looking out his window. He loves the woods, but with us living between sex offenders. Between sex offenders! We live in the middle trailers and knowing there's potential for a murderer to be over the hill from us, he's not allowed to look at his window no more," she cried.

But for Terry, who boasts a 5% recidivism rate for Jumpstart graduates compared to the state rate at more than 50%, he said he was willing to find a working solution, but did not feel people were open to what he had to stay.

"I'm open for solutions. I'm just doing the best I can with what I've got. All I know is the proof is in the pudding...people's lives are being changed people are reconciling with their families, sex offenders," said Terry.

The biggest concern for residents in this meeting was that they were never informed about this transitional housing and the potential for sex offenders to be living there.

Currently there is no South Carolina law that states people have to be publicly notified. Instead they can look online and see if a registered sex offender lives close to their home.

State lawmakers say this is not enough. Senator Shane Martin said there needs to be a change starting in Columbia with how people are notified.

"I think what we overwhelmingly heard tonight was notification was the number one thing and when I'm not notified and representative talon is not notified and community members are not notified it's really hard to make informed decisions," said Martin.

7 On Your Side covered Jumpstart in 2012 when the group tried to set up a halfway house in Spartanburg’s Converse Heights neighborhood.

Those neighbors collected 350 signatures on a petition asking the zoning board to reject the new neighbor.

After the public outcry, a local church donated a property for the halfway house.

Roebuck neighbors will try a similar strategy.

There is an option for people truly concerned about registered sex offenders in their neighborhood to get instant updates. It's called “Offender Watch” and it's a program through sled. You register your address or any other important addresses and it will send you an instant updates if a registered sex offender moves in close to those addresses. ..Source.. by Addie Hampton

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