By David MacAnally
MUNCIE - There's controversy in Muncie over where convicted sex offenders should be allowed to live and the issue is becoming more heated because of the bitter cold.
Mark called the city's Jackson Street bridge home after his release from prison, where he served time for a sex offense involving a minor.
When temperatures turn dangerously cold, Mark and four to eight other child sex offenders came to Christian Ministry Shelter, until the director got the news they must all leave.
"I was shocked, because it was something that we haven't been questioned about before," said shelter director Becki Clock.
Bridges become shelters partly because many defenders cannot find a place to stay. Especially in cases involving sex against minors, with laws barring them from being 1,000 feet from things like schools, libraries and parks.
Near the Muncie shelter there is a library, which is closed for repairs, and a small park by the fire station. It has no playground equipment.
"They really got frightened. They had a lot of agitation," Clock said.
"Where am I gonna go?" Mark said.
"My faith compels me to do something," said Rev. Steve Graves (Email) of Fountain Square Methodist Church (Facebook).
Graves and others convinced the state to let the men stay during the cold crisis, but after that they must leave. For neighbors, it's a tough issue.
"I would be concerned about that, too," said one man. "But they deserve a chance, too, they've done their time."
"I'm kind of torn between the good and the bad of it all," said another Muncie resident.
"They ought to have a place to stay," said a third man. "But I don't agree with sex offenders."
The pastor and others will now try to come up with a long-term housing solution for sex offenders. He knows lawmakers are just trying to protect the public, but "to say that there is no place for them to go to lay their head, it's not right."
Ex-offender Mark, who says he won't offend again, says "we're denied a place to live."