Fayette County

Charity buys house for sex offenders

On Friday, the Catholic Action Center plans to begin moving convicted sex offenders into a home it is buying for their use.

The four-bedroom home on Detroit Avenue will house as many as four men, said Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Catholic Action Center.

Since 2006, when a new state law placed tighter restrictions on where sex offenders can live, Ramsey said, it has been difficult for many lower-income offenders to find housing.

Clarence Green will be one of the men living at the house.

He was convicted in 1980 of first-degree manslaughter in Campbell County and first-degree sodomy in Kenton County, according to Department of Corrections records. Green said he had been drinking and abused a young girl. He served 22 years at the Kentucky State Reformatory for the crimes.

"It shouldn't affect me because it happened a long time ago," he said.

Green, who for unknown reasons does not appear on the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry, said he was living in a house until about six months ago.

"I had to move because I was too close to a school," he said.

Sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of schools, public playgrounds and licensed day-care centers. That has made much of the area inside New Circle Road off-limits for them.

"You just don't find places unless you can spend $600 or $700 a month," Ramsey said.

The Fayette County Sheriff's office has confirmed that the house on Detroit Avenue is in an area where sex offenders are permitted to live.

Ramsey said the center has already taken possession of the home and expects to close on it by Friday. A donor gave the organization the money for the down payment.

The men who move in will pay rent as they are able. Ramsey said having a stable address should help some of them get jobs and get on their feet.

"It's not a flophouse by any means," she said.

'They have to live'

Circuit Judge Sheila Isaac, who is retired but continues to work as a senior status judge, said stability is a key to helping sex offenders re-enter society after their convictions.

She said they need to work and get treatment, but because of the residency restrictions, they often end up living in remote areas where finding jobs and mental health services can be difficult.

"These restrictions isolate people. They cause a lot of financial and emotional stress," she said. "They have to live, and society isn't making it very easy for them to do that."

The Detroit Avenue home has been named Our Brother's Inn.

"They're the modern-day lepers," Ramsey said of sex offenders. "It's not that we in any way are condoning their behavior. We are just upholding their God-given dignity.

"Jesus was pretty straight about it. He didn't say feed the hungry who have the right paperwork ... shelter the homeless who are not sex offenders."

Isaac said she has seen several cases in which sex offenders had nowhere to go.

One homeless offender registered as living under a bridge near Henry Clay Boulevard. None of the emergency shelters in town is in an area where sex offenders are allowed to live, Isaac said.

Ramsey said some homeless offenders will come to the Catholic Action Center only on the coldest nights, because they are afraid of not being found where they live, even if it's not really a home.

Police check periodically to ensure that registered offenders are living at the address where they are registered. If not, the person can be arrested.

"We're not shy about doing that," said Sheriff Kathy Witt, whose office enforces the residency requirements.

She said her office also sometimes arrests people who have moved into areas where they have been told they are not permitted to live.

Ramsey said each of the residents of the Detroit Avenue home will have undergone a background check so that the Catholic Action Center knows their histories. Ramsey said she does not intend for pedophiles to live there.

They will also be required to undergo psychological counseling, she said.

"If anyone in any way is out of line, we will evict them, and the sheriff will be notified," Ramsey said.

A meeting with neighbors

Witt said her office and the Catholic Action Center will hold a meeting for neighbors to provide information about the house.

"This situation definitely calls us to bring as many people in the neighborhood together as possible," she said. "It creates a different level of concern."

She said two other offenders already live on nearby Dayton Avenue.

As of Tuesday, 265 offenders were registered as living in Fayette County, Witt said.

She said she thinks Lexington has adequate housing for them. She said people who are homeless have difficulty securing housing, whether they are sex offenders or not.

"There are a lot of areas in our community where offenders, if they choose, can live according to the law," she said. "I believe that there are available addresses in every segment of our community."

Green, 63, gets a small retirement check, but he said he's had trouble finding another place he can afford.

"The rents are high. The deposits are high," he said.

Green said he'll pay $250 a month rent to the Catholic Action Center.

"These people been good to me, trying to keep me living somewhere," he said.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader