Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories
November 19, 2014
In attendance: Patricia Bud, Hampden County Corrections, Joe Critelli, Hampden County Corrections, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Madeline Johnson, Hampden County Correction, Angel Recchia, Franklin Elder Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network
Review of 11/12/14 meeting with housing providers: HAP, Home City Housing, SMOC and Valley CDC answered our invitation to discuss housing policy for sex offenders. Executive or high level directors attended from each organization. From the work group the following members attended: Joe Critelli, Hampden County House of Corrections, Beatriz Fuentes, Hampden County Corrections intern, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Madeline Johnson, Hampden County House of Corrections, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Sgt. Anne McMahon, Northampton Police Department, Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, Network. Laurie Guidry was ill and could not attend. Our special guest Fred Smith, former program director of St. Francis House in Boston, made a special trip to Western Mass. to share his extensive experience in successfully housing people with sex offense histories. He was truly inspirational.
We discussed how this gathering, separate and apart from immediate outcomes, was a very significant step forward in engaging the broader housing community on this issue. We are grateful for their responsiveness. As a practical matter, most providers expressed the need for legislative change before they would feel comfortable housing people with sex offense histories. We offered specific, narrow criteria for consideration on a case-by-case basis. Some providers are taking it up with their board of directors, others are talking more internally and will let us know their thoughts after doing so. In general, the providers expressed concern about the already uphill battle they frequently face to locate affordable housing in communities.
Pamela will continue to follow-up with each provider separately to ascertain their positions and possible next steps.
We agreed at this meeting to explore in-depth (with Laurie’s guidance) possible legislative advocacy strategies and once we arrived at our strategy, we would invite the housing providers to join our efforts.
We also discussed pursuing the parallel strategy of engaging once again with faith leaders (we have contacts from our workshop of a couple years ago) to explore in more depth their partnership . Specifically, whether they would be willing to be part of their congregation’s education efforts on this issue and conduct outreach to congregational members who are property owners. The goal: expand housing options for sex offenders. We agreed that as part of this outreach, it would be very effective to bring the person who is seeking housing, to make that individual “real” and go past the label of sex offender.
We agreed we would explore both of these strategies – legislative advocacy and faith outreach – at our next meeting and we would plan that next meeting around Laurie Guidry’s availability. We will look at the week of 12/15. Pamela will survey Laurie for the date of Wed,. 12/17 at 11 am in Northampton but will pursue others if that does not work for her. Please stay tuned on the next meeting date!