By Patrick Preston
PORTLAND - Hundreds of homeowners are furious they've been in the dark about the existence of a sex offender treatment center near their children's schools for nearly a year.
There are no signs outside Whole Systems on Milwaukie Avenue, but from the playground of the Boys and Girls Club, the door of the sex offender treatment center can be seen. The Montessori school is also less than 300 feet from the center.
Many homeowners are just now learning about the center and some of them expressed fear and anger Monday night at a loud and tense meeting in Sellwood.
One hundred twenty convicts from Clackamas and Multnomah counties receive court-ordered counseling at the center for crimes such as molestation, possession of child pornography and rape of a minor.
"You just don't put this type of population in the middle of a residential neighborhood with lots of stay-at-home moms, lots of young kids," said Robin Springer, who organized the meeting.
Whole Systems moved to its current location from Oregon City last December but most of the 100 people who gathered at the meeting never complained because they didn’t know about it.
- So it's been there for almost 1 year, and no problems, which again, proves that sex offenders are not the evil "monsters" the media, police, politicians and others believe, and that recidivism is low. If they were as bad as people believe, there would be crimes all over the place, but there isn't.
"It's just unconscionable to me; in fact, I find it morally reprehensible," Springer said.
Meeting organizers made their goal clear, which is to get the sex offenders out of the neighborhood, but not everybody stuck to that agenda. A few tried to defend the treatment center and one couple was drowned out with applause until they left.
And the director of Whole Systems, Johneen Manno, crashed the meeting but was asked to leave.
Outside the meeting, Manno said she's open to relocating.
"I would like to talk to the property owner about that (getting out of the lease) and if he feels it's a good solution, then absolutely," she said.
Manno said she tried to tell the community about the treatment center but few at Monday night's meeting thought she tried hard enough.
They're now telling schools, churches and the rest of the community to talk with kids about the center. And they say they plan to pressure the landlord and whoever else they need to, to remove the sex offenders.
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