Last summer, St. Joseph County “quietly” became the first in Indiana to set up a group residence for paroled sex offenders.
The development came so quietly, that all three elected county commissioners have joined neighbors in expressing surprise.
Furthermore, the half way house was apparently set up “questionably,” in violation of zoning rules, and will now have to go through a full public hearing and receive the endorsement of the South Bend City Council.
The first of a dozen paroled sex offenders moved into the home in the 700 block of Lincolnway East in August.
Now, some who live in the surrounding neighborhood are beginning to feel like prisoners. Melinda Singleton says, “ basically our rights have been taken away. We don’t have the right to let our kids run free anymore, because they’re living right down the road.”
Singleton used the sex offender registry to get the full story on those staying at the half way house.
“Most of them are child molestors,” she says. “There are a couple of rapists, criminal confinement, one of them.”
The surprise felt by the neighbors, is being shared by county commissioners. All three told Newscenter 16, that they did not know about the half-way house until last week.
According to Commissioner Steve Ross, “the fact of the matter is, we should have known. We should have been fully informed about a matter as important as this.”
The half way house was set up by a county agency known as St. Joseph County Community Corrections. The agency recently found out that the house in question is not properly zoned to serve as a group residence.
Fixing that problem, would require a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals in January, with a final decision being made by the South Bend City Council.