Dear Members and Advocates,
Last week we wrote about a few hotels in New York that are the subject of protests. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the city’s homeless shelters have struggled to keep their residents socially distanced to avoid outbreaks of the disease that can quickly spread in communal living situations. The ideal solution was to house people in local hotels, which were largely empty and unused because of the lack of tourism.
What seemed like a common sense solution (you are able to give people a roof over their heads, you help prevent the spread of COVID, you utilize hotel space that would otherwise not be monetized) really got people angry. Neighbors of the hotels complained that their communities are somehow being made less safe by housing these people. It’s curious to wonder how sheltering people inside, behind a door, offers less protection to the community than having them sleep on the sidewalks or in a situation that would create a breeding ground for a deadly virus, but still they protested.
Yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James granted a temporary restraining order, blocking the eviction of sheltered residents at a third hotel, the Lucerne Hotel on W. 79th St. For now, at least, they will stay at the hotel but eventually we all know they might just be pushed off to another location where another angry mob that doesn’t want them in their back yard awaits them. It sadly reminds me of the “sex offender shuffle” that has taken place for the last decade in Miami-Dade County, where onerous residency restrictions severely limit the housing options for a group of people to the point where they are forced to cluster, homeless, in a small pocket. Eventually the neighborhood where the encampment pops up starts complaining and the County shuts it down only for it to re-emerge somewhere else.
In response to the New York City hotel issues, NY State Senator Brian Benjamin was quoted as saying, “as far as I’m concerned, we should not be debating about this homeless shelter or that homeless shelter. We should be talking about permanent housing”. It’s a very valid point. Since the enactment of residency restrictions more than a dozen years ago, human beings have been passed around from community to community like a game of hot potato. But rather than focus resources into kicking them out from under this bridge or along these railroad tracks and creating new ordinances to criminalize their situation, we should be talking about a solution to permanently fix this housing problem rather than deal with it every couple of years.
If it were only that simple, right? The problem is whenever anybody hears the phrase “sex offenders” they just want to punt the ball downfield as far as they can. Yesterday, California Senator Scott Wiener wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times about how he was targeted after introducing a bill to the Senate. He wrote, “But because SB 145 dealt with the sex offender registry, [groups] latched on and began posting wildly inaccurate statements about it, including that it legalized sex with children. I woke up one morning in August to find that I had hundreds of messages from people I’d never met… We had to tell our interns to stop answering the phones because we were getting death threats by the minute.” When a certain word causes so much venom and irrational response, it’s understandable why nobody wants to deal with it.
Kicking the ball downfield and not dealing with the problem properly only makes things worse and leaves people with a bigger mess to clean up. Take, for example, the State of Florida’s response to child abuse. Six years ago, the Florida legislature made it easier to remove children from parents deemed abusive. They thought they were protecting the children. Instead, as a USA Today report found, “In a matter of months, the foster care system found itself drowning in hundreds of new cases. By 2017, the state needed space for 6,000 additional foster children… they stood by as foster care agencies packed children into overcrowded homes and sent nearly 200 boys and girls to foster parents previously accused of abusing or neglecting the children in their care (including sexual abuse).” In response to that USA Today article, yesterday Senator Lauren Book sent a letter to the Governor complaining about the “gaping holes in Florida’s child welfare system related to policies and practices that have potentially placed or kept children in harm’s way when the Department should have been aware of those dangers.” Wouldn’t it be great if lawmakers actually took the time to research and fully think through policies before implementing them? But if that were the case you wouldn’t be reading this today.
And finally, speaking of reading this, I want to remind those of you on our mailing list that scams against registrants are continuing. On a daily basis we receive reports from individuals who are called by scammers pretending to be law enforcement officers calling to let them know about “problems” with their registration and eventually demanding money (through a stored-value card) or to meet them at a specified location or they will arrest the target. Those of you who are reading this are hopefully aware of these scams already and know to expect them, but scammers are now reaching out to registrant’s family members – including those who don’t live with them – and trying to scam them too. It is so important that you share this information with those who are not on our mailing list and who are not reading these warnings, such as your family, so they don’t get scammed either!
The Florida Action Committee
Oct 29 Thursday at 7:30pm ET- Special Hillsborough County member call. Dial 605-472-5682, Enter code 662073#. Meet your County Coordinators and let them know your concerns. They want to hear from you. Keep your Hillsborough County team connected and working for you. With Unity Comes Change.
Oct 29 Thursday at 8:00pm ET- Special Orange County member call. Dial 319-527-3487. Meet your County Coordinators and let them know your concerns. They want to hear from you. Keep your Orange County team connected and working for you. With Unity Comes Change.
Nov 5 Thursday at 8:00pm ET- Monthly Membership Call Dial 319-527-3487. Topic: 2020 Florida Election results and Updates from the FAC teams (Legislative, Legal, Media, Membership, Outreach). If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 319-527-3487. You will receive a call-back and be connected to the meeting.
Nov 7 Saturday Noon-3pm – Orange County Workshop in Apopka – Looking for volunteers to help stuff envelopes, prepare for meet local representatives, and plan the annual Holiday party for members. For location, RSVP to [email protected] or call 904-452-8322, leave name(s) and phone#.
Nov 12 Thursday at 8:00pm ET New Member Orientation Call. Dial 319-527-3487. Learn more about the FAC organization, resources, and volunteer opportunities. All members are welcome to call. If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 319-527-3487. You will receive a call-back and be connected to the meeting.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
Today the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of an out of state registrant who was kept on Florida’s public registry long after he moved out of the state. The appeal (and underlying Trial Court decision) were not based on the merits of an “out of state”…
The Dobbs Wire: Time sensitive request. Do you have a friend or loved one who is locked up in jail, prison or a sex offense civil commitment facility? They may be eligible for a $1,200 stimulus payment and not know it, or unsure what to do. Please send them…
Last month New Yorkers in the Upper West Side were all up in arms about a hotel that was used as a temporary shelter to house 18 persons labeled as “sex offenders”. Neighbors of the Hotel Belleclaire, at 77th and Broadway, questioned why “so many” of these individuals…
In Florida, not only vehicles owned or driven by a person required to register as a sex offender are on the registry, but so too are the vehicles of anybody living with them or visiting their homes for 5 or more days. That means your spouse, your driver-age children,…