LORAIN, Ohio– When a registered sex offender moves into a neighborhood, many parents are understandably alarmed. But some local residents were shocked to learn that offenders are living in their communities without having an address to report.
They might register the address of a homeless shelter, a motel or simply a street corner.
On Tuesday, FOX 8 caught up with Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy John Steenstra as he walked into a homeless shelter on Caroline Avenue in Lorain to check up on registered sex offenders.
“We have a lot of sex offenders that are homeless and this is where they register,” Steenstra said.
More than two dozen of the nearly 800 sex offenders in the county are considered homeless,
“People that are homeless don’t always register here though, they’ll register at just a street corner, to where they’re used to hanging out at,” said the deputy.
“If we can’t keep them safe because we don’t know where they’re at or where they’re living or that they’re using our street corners as their addresses around schools, around our homes, around our neighborhoods, it’s unsafe,” said Lorain resident Laura Guest.
Some Lorain residents said they were stunned to learn that a registered sex offender can legally use a street corner or parking lot as an address.
Records show a 48-year old habitual sex offender is registered at the corner of Oberlin Avenue and West Erie, not far from a school.
“How do we know where he’s at, how do we know what he’s doing, how do we know that our kids are safe?” asked Lorain City Councilman Angel Arroyo.
“We do random verifications on all of our homeless people. My partner and I, so we track them down the best we can,” Steenstra said.
“I need the address alright ok ’cause you can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school or a day care center,” Steenstra is heard saying to offender at the shelter.
Steenstra went to an apartment building searching for another man, who claimed to live at the shelter, but hadn’t been seen there in months.
“I’m looking for somebody, maybe you can help me,” he asked a group of people sitting outside of the building.
“He was registering as homeless and like I said, we got that tip that he was living here, so that’s why I’m here,” the deputy explained.
No luck this time, but the deputy says he will keep trying.
“If we can verify that he’s living there, nine times out of 10, he’s gonna be arrested,” Steenstra said.
“It’s unsafe for our grandkids, it’s unsafe for our children, and we need to pay attention to this,” Guest said.
Steenstra said authorities cannot force a homeless person to live in a shelter. He said any resident who has a concern about whether any sex offender’s registered address is valid, should call their local sheriff’s office.