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This is just cruel! Even a blind person gets treated inhumanely. This world is sick!
MOBERLY - A group formed a month ago to assist the homeless is facing its first major public relations mess after finding out its president is a convicted sex offender.
Hands Across Missouri plans to buy a full-page ad to run Tuesday in the Moberly Monitor-Index, explaining the group's mission and naming newly elected officers - part of what the group is calling "damage control."
"We felt this could easily destroy what we're trying to do to fight homelessness," said Ivy Taylor, the group's vice president. "We want to reassure people this is a legitimate organization of concerned and responsible citizens."
A routine background check last week showed that the group's president, Harold South, 42, of Moberly, served four years in prison for two counts of statutory rape and one count of statutory sodomy in 1997. The victim in the case was a 13-year-old female relative.
"It was an incredible blow, and it's very disturbing. In the last two days I've prayed about it and cried about it," Taylor said.
Organization members voted South out of his position Thursday during an emergency meeting, during which South spoke for 30 minutes defending himself. Four members of the group quit because of the action against South.
South, who is blind, is registered with local officials as a sex offender and is listed on the Missouri State Highway Patrol Web site as compliant with all the conditions of his parole, including a provision that he not live within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care center.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols said it didn't appear South was banned from contact with children, and he said he hadn't received any complaints about South.
"I can understand why the public would see that as a concern because of his offenses," Nichols said.
South told the Columbia Tribune that he didn't tell the organization about his offenses because he thought they were well known in the community.
"I hope to continue to live in Moberly," he said. "If not, I'll move on somewhere else. But I really do love Moberly, and I believe in what we're trying to do here."
Hands Across Missouri was formed in response to the plight of Patricia Gehring, 24, her two children ages 4 and 3, and her mother. The four were found living in a tent in Moberly's Rothwell Park.
The group raised $1,309, moved the family into temporary housing and attracted the attention of talk-show host Steve Wilkos. Wilkos is expected to visit Moberly to sponsor a fundraiser for the family and tape a show that will be aired later.
South said he invited Gehring and her children to stay in a storage room on his property, but she refused.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
MO - Homeless agency scrambles after learning chief is sex offender
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