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Irresponsible Journalism When It Comes To Sex Offenders

This past week a local newspaper ran a series of articles on the plight of the homeless.

The headline to a sidebar in the article announced “No One Wants To Deal With Sex Offenders”. This was my first issue with the article.

The article went on to talk about the population hardest to find housing for, sex offenders.  OK, we all know that to some degree that’s correct.  But then according to a statement in the article made by an employee of an outreach program, it said ” Some prefer to live in camps (homeless) because they’re predators.”

I seriously doubt that a predator would say they choose to live in a camp “because” they are a predator.  It just doesn’t ring true.  This was my second issue with the article.

The story went on to say that the outreach program usually gets 5-6  sex offenders a year in homeless camps and that “they know that they can’t get housing, so they don’t even pursue housing.” Third issue.

As the article continued, it was clear that in either the outreach worker’s experience or maybe just in their own mind, nobody wanted to deal with sex offenders when it came to housing and that they were pretty much relegated to run-down trailer parks where they might be able to work as maintenance in exchange for rent (this sounded to much like it was taken from the PBS/Pervert Park documentary). Sometimes they could find out of the way, back country rentals, far away from children, schools and libraries.  Of course, these out of the way areas are also off bus routes and not within walking distance to jobs.

The real “kicker” in the article was the fact that the outreach worker’s office was in a building that housed both a library and a daycare center so he couldn’t even meet with homeless offenders in his office.

I emailed the reporter who wrote the article and this is basically what I said…

Sex offenders have it hard enough without sensationalizing titles such as “No One Wants To Deal With Sex Offenders”.  There are real people behind that label.  There are mothers and fathers, husband and wives, children, families that ARE dealing with sex offenders every day.  We open our homes to them, provide love, support, a roof over their head, whatever they need to help them get back on their feet.  Yes, everyday, thousands of us DEAL with a sex offender. So don’t say no one wants to deal with them, that’s simply not true.

As far as sex offenders choosing to live in homeless camps because they’re predators, I chastized the author for not correcting the employee’s statement, all sex offenders are not predators.  Perhaps the author also assumes that all sex offenders are predators.  I asked that she practice “responsible journalism”, make corrections when the person she is interviewing makes an incorrect assumption.

And as for sex offenders not even bothering to pursue housing because “they know they can’t get housing”, that just tells me that the outreach worker needs to work alittle harder at his job. If he’s given up on finding housing for offenders except for “whatever they can get” outside the city limits, then he really needs to find another line of work. Offenders need someone who is working to help them get back up, not someone who is OK with the status quo, who thinks that “wherever” is good enough.

I haven’t received a response from the reporter. Hopefully she is out practicing responsible journalism !

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