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DANBURY – The city’s New Street homeless shelter is home to people convicted of sex crimes, and officials are investigating whether the state is shipping offenders from across the state to Danbury after their release from prison.
"These people had nothing to do with Danbury before they were sent here," Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said. "Danbury is one of only five or six shelters in the state without a prohibition against sex offenders. This is outrageous."
Three people on the sex offender registry list their address as the New Street facility.
Boughton said he and city officials will look at how this is happening. The city is looking into changing policies at the shelter to stop it from happening in the future.
In a letter dated Wednesday to Chief Court Administrator William J. Lavery, Boughton wrote: "We have grave concerns of a concentration of sex offenders in our shelter, therefore, we are promulgating new rules that will only allow one or possibly two Danbury resident sex offenders present at any time."
Boughton said if any sexual offender is going to be staying there, he’d rather that person be local rather than from out of town.
In the same letter, Boughton asked the state to review its policy of state agency referrals of sex offenders to local homeless shelters.
Brian Garnett, director of external communications for the state Department of Corrections, said the department doesn’t have a policy of sending sex offenders to homeless shelters when they leave prison.
"They could end up in a homeless shelter. We’d have no control over that," Garnett said.
The homeless shelter on New Street has 15 beds in the summer and 20 in the winter, director Claudette Fogarty said. She said she isn’t there to judge who gets a bed at night and that people who were convicted of sex offenses stay at the shelter like other people, usually without a problem.
But Boughton is concerned.
"We’re worried it could be a threat to shelter residents," Boughton said.
Fogarty said the shelter is open to people who are 18 years old or older. Families with young children do not stay there. She said sometimes the state’s probation office phones to ask if a particular person is staying there. She will answer, then alert the client about the call.
"They’re just people. This is my job," Fogarty said. "It’s not my job to judge them."
Fogarty said people on the state’s sex offender list have a tough time finding apartments, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development won’t let them have public housing.
"We’re bashing our heads against the wall on this," Fogarty said. "These people need housing."
Fogarty said to the best of her knowledge – and she has been working at the shelter for 20 years – there has not been a problem caused by a person on the sex offender registry. The list includes anyone convicted of a sexual crime, not just those guilty of offenses against children.
Danbury Police Chief Al Baker said Det. Mark Williams discovered this problem in June as part of his work monitoring the whereabouts of sex offenders in Danbury.
Williams wrote a letter to Deputy Chief Terry Shanahan, saying the city should take the situation seriously. He said some sex offenders may be using the shelter as a mailing address but not live there, which makes tracking them harder.
He also said they could be a threat to other shelter residents.
Another concern was many of the people on the registry who stay at the shelter have no ties to Danbury.
"I think we have to air this issue in the community," Baker said. "Of course, these people need a place to live. The question is, does the community feel comfortable with them in the shelter?"
Baker said the city can consider a number of alternatives. He said one idea is to prohibit sex offenders from staying in the shelter at all, which other communities in the state have done. The city could limit the number of days a sex offender could stay, or limit the number of offenders there at any given moment. Another idea is to insist people who stay in the Danbury shelter have ties to the community.
Friday, August 3, 2007
CT - City shelter home to sex offenders
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