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.

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Shane Dillon
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Shane Dillon

I really don't understand why SHARE are making this such a big deal unless the people they are trying to shelter here are high level sex offenders.

Just because something hasn't happened yet, it does not mean it will never happen.

“Prevention is better that a cure”

What would they then say if something terrible did happen? – Probably something like “with all the shelters over all the years we have been running we have only had one incident.” Well that is not good enough.

The checks are fast and free, so what is the big deal?

chopper_74
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chopper_74

Thank you Geeky Swedes.
I'd like to say, background checks couldn't be 'more' American, I'm pretty damn sure that we invented them…if not, I'm sure that it will be attributed to the Nazi's…lol.
This Share organization needs to be challenged to wake up, I don't see any victims here, I see malcontent losers, expecting us to hand over our neighborhood to them.
Sure, they feel entitled…'nice town…we'll take it', and btw, don't expect any thanks, that too must be 'un-American'.
As far as the church goes, they have to deal with their role in this. I'd prefer that they quit trying to take the easy way out, play enabler, appease what-ever they feel they are lacking, because they are a danger to this community if that mentality continues.
I challenge that church, and any others that are so inclined to cave into these whack-jobs, to focus on productive, permanent solutions. Or, you really will be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

jm
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jm

Even if the sex offender issue wasn’t a topic, the neighbors of the church should have the right to say no to a hobo motel business. The neighbors have an investment in the community and are responsible citizens. The transient population has mental and substance abuse issues that make them questionable characters. What’s so hard to understand?

giz
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giz

SHARE has been running the checks for Tent City 4 (at no cost to them) through the King County Sheriff's Office since 2004. Eastide cities that have played host to Tent City 4 have required it as part of their permits. In addition, SHARE's Tent City 4 assurres their host churches that they do these checks “voluntarily” . Even with these checks required as part of permits, there is countless documentation via police reports that SHARE is not always running these checks. There were several recent cases in Mercer Island in which neighbors discovered THREE Tent City 4 residents that were living in the camp with outstanding warrants. The names of the individuals with outstanding warrants was turned over to the Mercer Island Police. The MI Police verified that this information provided by neighbors was ideed accurate and it resultled in the arrest of two of the three individuals. (one individual was tipped off in advance of the police coming). This information I am providing can be verified via police reports through the MI police department.*Case # 2008-00008589 on 8-19-2008Tent City 4 resident living there with an outstanding FELONY NO BAIL DOC ESCAPE FROM COMMUNITY CUSTODY WARRANT (OCA #953719)It is… Read more »

Ben0228
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Ben0228

I respect the homeless, but any “group” which operates in a neighborhood like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and all businesses, offer background screenings for the safety of their members and customers and neighborhood.

Sex offenders have to resgister their currect place of resident, yet many register as “transients” to avoid being tracked, and therefore when it comes to a homeless group, it seems only natural that the ONE major requirement be a sex offender check.

No one wants any other personal information or history – this is a reasonable request.

MAG
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MAG

Sounds like the church and neighbors are trying to compromise on the issue and that by having background checks the neighbors are more comfortable trying the shelter there. That is their compromise. Is it only the neighbors who have to compromise? What about SHARE's meeting them halfway?

In my view, there is little risk to someone w/o a sex offender record being checked. They get checked, no record, they move in. However there is a huge risk to children and neighbors who have someone with this record living nearby.

I live near Discovery Park and if SHARE is the group who recently camped out there in the fall, (and I'm pretty sure they are) — there were some problems, police were called on numerous occasions, and people had to be removed from the encampment. Yes, SHARE said they acted quickly when incidents happened but preventing incidents would be better.

I am not insensitive to the needs of the homeless, but the needs of families, homeowners, neighbors and nearby businesses should be considered as well. One shouldn't trump the other.

Mr.B
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Mr.B

I thought I read somewhere on Share/Wheels on website that they did background searches even before this incident. I'm sure the structure of Share/Wheel has been doing great the past years without incident. But what does that mean to the neighborhood they are entering? People who bought homes to be in a safe neighborhood, to come home at the end of the day and feel safe. These people come in and say “can we camp out here near your church, we don't want to cause any harm, we just want to be able to live.” Sure it's fine, but you do want to know who these people are before you give an answer. If a sex offender buys or rents a home in this neighborhood, they have to register with the state/city. So if your homeless, and mind your own business in this tent community, your exempt? I'm not saying any of the share/wheel members are sex offenders, in fact I'm betting none of them are. But if they have nothing to hide, then I don't see the problem besides that of pride. To my mind, if I'm entering a community, not offering anything, but asking (nicely mind you) a… Read more »

giz
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giz

A quick check of the King County sex offender registry shows 462 individuals listed as “HOMELESS.”

Like it or not, these are the facts and as citizens and tax paying members of this community we absolutely have a duty not to ignore this.

SHARE's vehement refusal to run the checks here in Ballard when they are running them for their Tent City 4 begs the question-WHY?

They claim in their “statement/letter” for this article that it is “un-American” yet they have been running them for Tent City 4 since 2004?

Smoke and mirrors. One can reasonably conclude that their steadfast refusal to run the checks here is Ballard means they have something to hide.

giz
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giz

You are correct. The man behind SHARE, Scott Morrow, brought his new Tent City (known as NICKELSVILLE) illegally to Discovery Park.

boardbrown
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boardbrown

Their “un-American” comment makes no sense to me.

chopper_74
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chopper_74

There's a heck of a lot here that makes no sense imho.

chopper_74
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chopper_74

This group is incapable of compromise, they see no reason to do so. They are convinced that they have the moral high ground, after all, they are the 'downtrodden' the 'victims' the 'compassionate ones' as well, unless you see what they do to neighborhoods, parks, and churches. Expecting better of them is indeed 'un-American'…I don't see how even if they 'promise' to make checks, and report on these checks to law enforcement, that they can be believed. The lies are too numurous, the excuses are too grand, and the desire isn't in them to be responsible to this, or any community. They've had to be forced to do the right thing every time…maybe that's why they don't pay rent?
Criminal background checks cannot be excluded, community service cannot be excluded, Employment or education cannot be excluded, rules for occupancy cannot be excluded. The sooner they get that, the better off they'll be. And perhaps, they'd be welcomed, anywhere.

Pub Intell
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Pub Intell

Just today a man was arrested for the UW shooting that occurred on Friday.

From the Seattle Times “…detectives working the case learned that the alleged shooter is a transient from Texas who frequents U District shelters, hangs out in the neighborhood…”

I am certainly not suggesting that all or even many homeless are likely to be violent or dangerous in Ballard. However, I think that as a community and as taxpayers, we deserve the right to protect ourselves with simple background checks that could help prevent dangerous people with no stake in Ballard from moving into shelters here.

FYI
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews

Cloaca De Ville
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Cloaca De Ville

I don't know if anyone here has time to read, or understand…..we are all too busy posting, sometimes the same comments on multiple threads and or blog sites.
I understand the need for public safety. I also can see, every day, the very evident need for shelter and safety for individuals. I was raised to beleive that each of us has a civic responsibility to create safe communities for all. Also, that there is a potential for redemption in even the most insignificant and ugly soul.
The continued harping on the topic of criminal history checks avoids the deeper topics.

Cloaca De Ville
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Cloaca De Ville

and seems to be a terrific way to spend the day

chopper_74
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chopper_74

ok, then, bring back the Queen of England…background checks were the least of our concerns then…all of us were in the same boat, you certainly can't use that as an excuse for those who we are currently concerned about, with good reason, I'd add.

bummer
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bummer

i didn't have to submit to any background checks when i moved to ballard.

the idea that if we have nothing to hide we should welcome our neighbors to pry into our records is probably what they felt was un-american.

Sweet Rose
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Sweet Rose

Soldiers from Ft Lewis have been caught mugging frat boys, may have given drugs to and cause the death of a 16 year old and one has been discovered to be a pimp. I say we need to close Ft Lewis and ban soldiers form the streets of Seattle. “I am certainly not suggesting that all or even many soldiers are likely to be violent or dangerous” Sound familiar Pub?

Sweet Rose
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Sweet Rose

Seems to me that the creators of this site want to be a platform for a few radical reactionaries. Maybe the posters are actually the site owners. Heck I bet they aren’t even more than a 10th Swedish like most ‘Scandinavians’ in Ballard.

This issue is SOOOO worn out.

mickey
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mickey

I really don't understand SHARE's responses. It seems like they are talking out of both sides of their mouths. First they claim to be working on an acceptable policy with neighbors, then they print a letter like the one above refusing to take part in any policy regarding background checks. Out of one side of their mouths they characterize background checks as being “un-American”, but willingly support them being conducted in Redmond.

The SHARE representatives are doing everyone a disservice — the neighbors, the church, and the homeless who could really use a place to stay. I'm, frankly, stunned at SHARE's hostility and disingenousness.

Background checks are routinely used for many situations. I had to submit to a criminal background check in order to be accepted as an after school tutor for… kids living in a transitional shelter (a really good one, run by an excellent organization). I had no problem with that. It took 10 minutes and I was cleared and ready to start my tutoring.

chopper_74
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chopper_74

“willingly support them being conducted in Redmond.” That's a lie, of course, I don't want to offend you. Not the issue, the refusal to take ANY responsibility for whom they choose to house, is.

chopper_74
Guest
chopper_74

so, don't participate, again, like how you never answered my question to you…

chopper_74
Guest
chopper_74

was it a tent at a church? Nope, it was a rental or homeowners application, or agreement, still not the issue. Nice try, and welcome to Ballard…

mickey
Guest
mickey

Well, they may not be happy about it, but it appears that SHARE is, in fact, submitting to the background checks at Tent City 4 in Redmond, right? I'm only making the point that in one venue (Redmond) they are complying with the community's demands, while, at a second venue (Ballard) they are refusing. Bottom line, they are being hypocrites. The same standards should be adopted in all venues. People trust and respect consistency.

Stupid Hippie
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Stupid Hippie

It's a conspiracy, I tell you Sweet Rose. Anyone who can't accept the differently-housed for their alt lifestyle is a total reactionary. Probably a fascist.

I moved to Ballard because I thought EVERYONE was tolerant. Now I know they are all fascists demanding the differently-house get checked. What's next, reactionaries, send them to Guantanamo?

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