Residents of Cranston–my hometown, woot!–are upset because sex offenders are living in a local homeless shelter located about a half mile away from a school. To give you an idea of what that means, Cranston is approximately 28 square miles. And there are 24 public schools in the city, plus a bunch of private ones (like St Mary’s, woot!). The only way to possibly have a shelter that wasn’t within half a mile of a school would be to have it in the middle of one of those shi-shi luxury community developments near the Scituate border. (Cranston, for those of you who don’t travel south very often, has a population of about 80,000, most of which is settled in the eastern two-thirds of the city. The west, which used to be farmland, is where all the fancy exurby houses got built in the last twenty years or so. So it’s not like anybody’s going to put a homeless shelter there because, you know, that might kill the property values or whatever.)
According to the shelter, former sex offenders have been housed there for years, but only recently did the cops start notifying neighbors about it. That’s because a new law makes it a felony for a sex offender to live within 300 feet of a school, according to Robin Muksian-Schutt, Mayor Fung’s director of adminstration. (I’m not quite sure how that’s relevant, though, since the shelter is about six times that distance away from any schools.) Another recent development, according to Muksian-Schutt, is that offenders–who have to list their residence with the state Department of Corrections–are now listing the shelter as their home. (Again, I’m not sure how that’s a new development, since the shelter director says convicted offenders have been living there for years.)
This all came out in Randal Edgar’s article in the Journal today. Thankfully he didn’t get all Scarlet Letter-ish about it the way that some Journal writers might have, though he did neglect a few key details. (And I’m pretty sure he got the name of the street wrong.* Not to mention that whoever wrote the headline is breaking the rules about subject-verb agreement.)
City councilwoman Michelle Bergin-Andrews says that the location of the shelter is a terrible one. (Presumably she would prefer that it were in someone else’s district.) She cites a nearby park as the reason why. “It’s like a kid in a candy store where they’re located. Take your pick, you have unsuspecting females walking around.” What she doesn’t seem to realize–and what the article doesn’t mention, for some reason–is that the shelter is in the same complex as the state prison.
When I went to elementary school in that part of town–Glen Hills, holla–we sometimes had to miss recess because of prison breaks. So it’s not as if the shelter is in a particularly great neighborhood. Actually, it’s not in a neighborhood at all, it’s in a complex of state-owned buildings.
The Urban League, which runs the shelter, points out that the offenders should be safe because they are monitored by the state. Also, he notes that as a state-funded organization they are obligated to take the offenders in. And, I think it’s worth noting, they have nowhere else to go because they are homeless. And it’s not like jobs are easy to find for anyone, never mind convicted felons.
(*Howard Avenue is where the Howard Complex is, with the prison and all the state offices, near Mulligan’s Island; Howard Street is where Basil’s Pizza is, off Cranston Street and pretty nearby to Stadium School (wazzup!) Basil’s, by the way, is delicious if you’re ever in the mood for extra-greasy pizza made by proud Macedonians. Though it’s kind of a hang-out for middle school kids–Hugh B Bain, represent!–so you might want to get it as takeout.)