SHARE: Sex offender screening ‘un-American’

Members of the homeless group that were planning to move into an overnight shelter at Calvary Lutheran Church have written a letter responding to the controversy over sex offender screening. The letter, faxed to My Ballard, explains that the SHARE group was “disinvited” from staying at Calvary after “some neighbors became hysterical and threatened the church if they let us come.” The SHARE members said the church asked them to change their screening process to begin checking for sex offenders, a requirement they called “un-American” and a result of “homelessphobia” discrimination.

(File photo of SHARE members with Our Redeemer’s Pastor Steve Grumm). “How many times have we had a problem with a sex offender at a SHARE shelter? NEVER. NOT ONCE,” the letter reads. “Sex offenders are not welcome in SHARE church shelters. We just don’t need a sex offender check during screening to move them on. The proof is in our well-run shelters and the complete lack of neighborhood problems where we stay.” The letter explains they believe they can find another church, temple or mosque that won’t require the checks. “We’ll be all right,” they write.

The controversy began when Our Redeemer’s Church, which oversees the now-vacant Calvary Lutheran Church, invited 20 members of SHARE to form an overnight shelter. Many neighbors in a community meeting demanded that SHARE submit to sex offender checks, a request that the church passed to SHARE, which as you can see, has refused to submit to them. Our Redeemer’s says it’s still working with SHARE in an attempt to come to a resolution.

Meanwhile, a My Ballard reader pointed out in comments on an earlier story that the city of Redmond has included a sex offender screening requirement in the temporary use permit for Tent City 4 (.pdf), which is made up of SHARE members. “Tent City 4 shall report any positive results of sex offenders or warrant checks to the Redmond Police Department,” the requirement reads.

The full letter from SHARE members follows below…

SHARE’s Calvary Lutheran Shelter Responds to Ballard Church Disinvitation

We, the men of Calvary Lutheran, wish to set the record straight about our community. The Seattle PI wrote about our shelter losing a future site, and said it was because SHARE was stubborn and wouldn’t check for sex offenders in shelters.

Sorry, but that’s not what happened.

We were there. Our shelter was invited to the Ballard Calvary Lutheran church based on our existing track record and rules. Some neighbors became hysterical and threatened the church if they let us come. This hysteria was based on fear. The fear was based on ignorance and as we call it — homelessphobia.

So the church asked us to change our screening process and begin checking for sex offenders in our screening. Why?

Our shelters have operated for 18 years in Seattle. We have 14 of them now. The two oldest have day cares and music schools How many times have we had a problem with a sex offender at a SHARE shelter?

NEVER. NOT ONCE.

That’s a fact.

So what’s really happening here? This is discrimination against homeless people, pure and simple. The church that disinvited us doesn’t do sex offender checks on everyone who goes to their church service — or their other programs. We have simply been targeted because we are homeless and some neighbors are fearful.

It’s also un-American. This nation was founded on principles like due process, privacy, presumption of innocence, and equality under the law. Discrimination, invasion of privacy, and presumption of guilt are un-American.

We know there is a church, temple, or mosque out there who walks their talk — one whose priority is compassion, justice, fairness, and treating others the way you would wish to be treated. We’ll be all right.

The real losers in all this are the Ballard neighbors who are trapped in their fears and ignorance. Now they will never know what the great majority of neighbors of the 14 other SHARE shelters have learned — we are good neighbors and benefit out host’s neighborhoods.

One Ballard neighbor suggested a 3 week trial period. We accepted the challenge, and offered to leave on 24 hours notice if there was a problem. If they’d accepted this proposal, they’d have seen how well we run our shelter. But our offer wasn’t taken up — the real goal of homelessphobics was simply to keep us out.

Many of us have skills, intelligence, compassion and understanding. We’ve just fallen on hard times. By disinviting us, the church as let these neighbors think that fear has won. If we had gone in with the sex offender checks, they would think that the only reason we were okay was because of those checks.

Sex offenders are not welcome in SHARE church shelters. We just don’t need a sex offender check during screening to move them on. The proof is in our well run shelters and the complete lack of neighborhood problems where we stay.

152 comments on “SHARE: Sex offender screening ‘un-American’”

  1. Churches have harbored many more sexual predators than homeless camps. Perhaps the wrong side is asking for background checks.

  2. This is possibly the most ignorant remark I've heard in quite a while. The homeless are homeless because they're drunk or mentally ill? That kind of sweeping generalization is not only completely wrong, but speaks volumes about your prejudices and lack of information.

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