Sex offenders find housing where they can

2011-02-22T00:00:00Z Sex offenders find housing where they canBy Gina Harkins Medill News Service nwitimes.com
February 22, 2011 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO | Significant numbers of white and Hispanic sex offenders are living in nearly all-black communities on Chicago's South and West sides, according to the Chicago Police Department's Registered Sex Offenders website.

The five communities include East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, West Englewood, Washington Park and Roseland. The population of each is 98 percent black, according to U.S. Census data.

In West Englewood, 14 percent of the 136 registered sex offenders living in the community are not black. In a community where only 1 percent of the population is white, 12 percent of the sex offenders are white.

In West Garfield Park, a community with 1 percent Hispanic population, four of the 45 sex offenders, or about 10 percent, are Hispanic.

So what explains this phenomenon? Racial makeup of the sex offender list and the need for housing may be contributing factors, experts say.

"The sex offender registry is made up of about 78 percent white individuals," said William Mingus, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is researching the trend.

Lack of housing options could be a reason that sex offenders of all races show up in some communities, said Robin McGinnis, a social worker. They need affordable housing that meets parole restrictions limiting proximity to schools and other facilities for children.

"There's no place for them to get housing," McGinnis said. "What are you left with? You go where you can."

There is only one licensed half-way house for sex offenders in Illinois, according to the Illinois Sexual Offender registry list. The facility in East St. Louis only accommodates 20.

McGinnis said the problem needs to be managed statewide, and more transitional housing would help.

Thomas Gradel, spokesman for 2nd Ward alderman Robert Fioretti, said the offenders were community outsiders.

"A lot of times these offenses are not committed in the ward," Gradel said. "Generally, they're moving into these communities after they are released."

Fioretti's ward includes East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park.

Aime Eipers, a social worker who works with sex offenders, said that is not common.

"My experience is that people are not returned to communities where they're not from," Eipers said. "When they come out of jail or prison, they go back to their home community."

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