Lawyer asks court to allow homeless with sex offenses to stay at shelters near schools after Grand Rapids man died in cold last winter
GRAND RAPIDS -- When Thomas Pauli froze to death early this year next to a car in an auto salvage yard, his friends were outraged that state law prevented the convicted sex offender from taking shelter at local missions.
Now, in the aftermath of the 52-year-old's death amid frigid temperatures, a move is under way to clarify a law that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school or day care.
"No one, regardless of what they have done, deserves death on the street like that," said Miriam Aukerman, a Legal Aid of Western Michigan attorney taking up the legal battle on behalf of area homeless advocates.
Among the local agencies supporting the effort are: Mel Trotter and Degage ministries, the Servants Center, Salvation Army, Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, Guiding Light Mission and Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
Aukerman recently asked Michigan State Police Director Peter Munoz, whose agency oversees the state's Sex Offender Registry, to look at whether shelters should be considered the "residence" of a homeless person. Munoz declined to rule, saying the state police primarily only keeps the computerized database of offenders.
Aukerman now plans to ask a court to issue a decision.
I know where these missions are, they are mostly all within a 2 - 3 block radius of Catholic Central High School.
So what are your thoughts? What is the greater good here? Do we protect the children at the risk of letting a man freeze to death? Is there another solution? Is this more the result of a failed legal system that lets dangerous men back out on the street?