Sex offender housing program continues

A sex offender housing program with a controversial past, will apparently have a future.

A grant application will be submitted, to continue “Project Roots” in St. Joseph County.

Project Roots pays the rent of recently released sex offenders who would otherwise be homeless.

Where the program has gone, controversy has followed.

In the beginning ten offenders were discovered living in the same house on Lincolnway East in South Bend.

Some in the neighborhood were outraged.

The same thing happened in May, when it was discovered that a couple of apartment houses, a couple of blocks apart, housed seven offenders in the Dunham Street Neighborhood.

“We have now limited the sex offenders to no more than two offenders can be in any one apartment,” said Michael Gotsch. Gotsch is on St. Joseph County Community Corrections Board Executive Committee.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the St. Joseph County Commissioners agreed to apply for a grant that would provide another year of funding for Project Roots.

“It’s an infant program so to speak,” said County Commissioner Steve Ross: ”In infancy, errors can be made and were made.”

But Ross and others still feel the bigger error would be to go back to the way things were before Project Roots.

“The monitoring is exceptional, I mean when we talk about having eyes on sex offenders all the time, where previously they were living under bridges and in parks, this is a much better solution.”

The same officials who advocated continuing Project Roots, also feel it should be taken completely out of residential neighborhoods.

Plans were being made to place the offenders in a part of town where their only neighbors would be planes and factories.

The construction of a new community corrections facility off Lathrop Road was set to begin next spring.

“It’s in a light industrial area,” said Gotsch: “there would be no homes around for miles, no churches, no schools, no playgrounds, there’s no danger of any kind.”

The plans fell through when the State of Indiana withdrew a previous commitment to contribute money to the project.

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