Potential offender house riles residents
By Garrett McCulloch
November 04, 2004
A few registered sex offenders will likely be headed to a Wallingford house, and the neighbors are less than happy about it.
Providence House, a program designed to house and treat released sex offenders, recently leased a house 5019 5th Ave. NE, just west of Interstate 5.
The organization will place low-risk sex offenders in a "peer-supervised" living arrangement in the residential neighborhood. The residents will not live under any manager or full-time supervisor, but will instead be accountable to themselves and each other. Five to eight sex offenders will live in the house at one time.
The house will be located about 15 blocks east of the UW campus.
The organization held a community meeting last night in Wallingford, introducing the neighborhood to its purpose and responding to local residents' concerns.
At the meeting, several community members could not contain their anger. Less than five minutes into the meeting, vocal residents began to shout their complaints over the speakers.
While this is Providence House's first endeavor in peer-supervised housing, variations have been tried in other Seattle neighborhoods. Tom Teicher has been running a rehabilitation program in the Central District for several years, and says the general risk is very low.
"If we had a single incident of someone being hurt, I can guarantee you we would not be in operation today," he said.
"Government doesn't have the funds to create this type of program," said William Ruddell, exeuctive director of Porvidence House, adding that charity is also not the sole answer to the problem.
"Level III offenders are usually the ones you see on TV, committing these horrendous crimes," said Linda Paxton, of Providence House. Providence House plans to bring offenders classified under Levels I and II, generally considered at a much lower risk to re-offend.
"Part of our key to this program is deciding who lives in the house," said Ruddell.
Even with the precautions, several residents were unhappy with the lack of notification.
"What these guys are trying to do is what has to be done -- what is going to be done everywhere eventually," said Mac Gordon, SPD (Seattle Police Department) detective, though he agreed that Providence House botched the notification process.
"SPD only got involved in this three weeks ago," he said.
Speakers pointed out that many virtually unknown sex offenders are already living unsupervised around Wallingford and the U-District.
"There's a huge sense of ownership in this community," said Gordon.
The panel said Downtown Seattle has a far worse risk involved between registered sex offenders living without supervision and children in the area.
"That's why we buy homes in Wallingford," responded a voice from the crowd.