Monday, November 30, 2015

Freezing weather, shelters, and sex offenders; it's deja vu all over again

A month shy of a year ago, I posted a long and bitter post about the policy of at least one homeless shelter regarding sex offenders. That place, as part of its general policy, excluded anyone
on the sex offender registry from, literally, coming in from the cold.

Parts of California, it seems, are having uncharacteristically cold weather this year--and it isn't even winter yet. A shelter in Sacramento with the Biblically-referenced name of Loaves and Fishes has teamed up with area churches from late November to the beginning of next April with a program called Winter Sanctuary. This service offers a meal and a place to sleep out of the elements for the cities' homeless. It unquestionably is doing good work, needed work, and I read the article about it with equal amounts of increasing admiration for what they are doing and guilt for not doing more myself for those less fortunate.

And then, close to the bottom, there it was. After a short digression about the behavior of someone who was obviously suffering a mental or emotional problem was the statement, "The screening process is intended to weed out sex offenders or those who are intoxicated or agitated."

Weed out sex offenders. Does this mean those who are actively offending as they are applying for admission to the shelter? Could it be that someone on the screening committee had personal knowledge that certain individuals had just committed sexual offenses and intended to do so again?

Of course not. It means that part of the screening process involves running each applicant's name against the public sex offender registry, that unwieldy and unreliable list containing the names of people who broke the law--or in come cases were falsely accused of doing so--by committing an offense ranging somewhere on the scale between a stupid misdemeanor to a serious felony, some of them with a single offense committed over twenty years ago.

There is no murderers' registry to check and exclude the murderers. There is no drug dealers' registry to consult in order to keep out those who might sell illegal drugs to other shelter-seekers. There is no thieves' registry to enable the exclusion of those who might steal the meager possessions of other residents. Those who are drinkers are only excluded if they are drunk at the time of admission, and those who tend toward agitation must be visibly agitated at the time to be turned away.

But someone on the registry? All that is needed here to turn these men and women into the freezing cold is their names on a list, a list that no more tells anyone who they are now than their eye color predicts how tall they will grow.

If this discrimination were done on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender or sexual preference, religious preference--or lack of--, political persuasion, handicap or deformity, or any of the myriad other characteristics that set us apart from each other, all it would take would be a phone call to the local newspaper to have the place swarming with media and civil rights advocates and specialized lobby groups, and the shelter and the churches and everyone involved would be knocking each other down to get to the microphone to apologize.

But registrants? Those whose names are on a public sex offender registry?

The question answers itself.

1 comment:

  1. If one of these guys dies because he was discriminated against for being on the registry then his family should be able to sue the registry or organization.


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