By Lauren Padgett
Residents of the 25th Legislative District who are concerned about community and neighborhood safety can breathe a bit easier now. That’s because Gov. Jay Inslee has signed Sen. Bruce Dammeier’s bill to address concerns about the state housing-voucher program for offenders.
Many people from Puyallup, Dammeier’s district, were present for Thursday’s signing of Senate Bill 5105 (PDF). They included Julie Door, a citizen lobbyist who became integral to the discussion that produced the new law, utilizing the Facebook page Shaw ComeTogether.
“While this measure addresses major concerns for the people of my district, it will also positively affect other neighborhoods and communities all across the state,” said Dammeier, R-Puyallup. “This bill increases transparency and clearly outlines conditions to which the state Department of Corrections must adhere when issuing housing vouchers.”
Senate Bill 5105 states that when a sex offender is released into the public, there must be an approved plan that outlines living arrangements prior to release. If the release plan is not approved, they could be denied residency and might be transitioned through another jail program.
Rental vouchers, which help offenders transition back into society, are only to be given for the first three months after their release.
The Department of Corrections will also maintain an approved list of halfway houses and voucher recipients, the bill states. If more than two offenders live in the same place, those housing vouchers will only be eligible if the housing situation has been approved to handle the larger volume of high-risk occupants.
The department will consider the location of the house and neighborhood in their decision of whether or not a residence is eligible for the housing voucher program. Procedures will be adopted that prevent a cluster of "halfway houses" in any given town.
When a property becomes considered for a halfway house, law enforcement authorities will be notified and community impact statements will be accepted and considered during the application process.
In situations where four to eight offenders are eligible to live together (or greater number than permitted by local code), then the DOC must provide transitional support that verifies the offender is participating in counseling, sex offender treatment and other programs that develop positive living.
These new measures and push for the Senate bill started last year, when Puyallup’s Shaw Road neighborhood became a possible location for a halfway house for newly-released offenders.
It's truly a relief to the community, Door posted on Facebook.
"This was the culmination of an AMAZING community effort," Shaw ComeTogether posted. "Puyallup citizens should be proud of the effort they put forth to keep our communities safe!"