A judge has refused to block the city from sending 50 sex offenders to a Brooklyn shelter run by the Doe Fund, but shelter staffers say they're fighting back because they have no expertise in dealing with sex offenders.
"It's unimaginable, and believe me, the Doe Fund will not do it," said Harriet McDonald, director of the Doe Fund, which helps able-bodied homeless men get back to work. The organization had sued to stop the city from forcing it take in the sex offenders at its shelter in East Williamsburg.
The well-respected program dispatches men in blue uniforms to sweep streets in residential neighborhoods and business districts throughout the city. When the workers leave the shelter, they find private-sector jobs and pay their own rent.
The Doe Fund shelter on Porter Avenue is one of 17 shelters now being instructed to take in a total of 550 sex offenders. The city decided to shelter all sex offenders more than 1,000 feet from schools after a homeless sex offender living at the 30th Street Men's Shelter raped a woman in the bathroom of a Kips Bay bar in April.
In this crowded city, shelters that are more than 1,000 feet from a school -- like the one on Porter Avenue -- are rare.
"Those are the places where we feel if we place sex offenders, it will be safer place for everybody," said Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. "It's not an ideal situation but it will be a better place."
Administration sources said the Doe Fund doesn't have to put sex offenders on street-sweeping duty if they don't want to, but they do have to shelter them under their city contract.
"Some of them have balked at doing it but the reality is when you sign a contract with us, you are saying you are willing to take whoever we send you, and these are the people we are sending you," said Barrios-Paoli.
Barrios-Paoli declined to discuss the details of the Doe Fund dispute because it's in court but she said homeless sex offenders have a right to a shelter bed.
Barrios-Paoli said that while the other 16 programs that have been asked to take such offenders have raised similar concerns, they are all cooperating and working with the city to make it happen. The city is offering to give the shelters extra staff, social workers and security to help them handle these cases, she added.
Derrick Washington was once a Doe Fund worker, and now supervises them. He said putting sex offenders into the street-sweeping program would be "taking a big chance."
"We work around a lot of communities, there’s children and females walking around at all times, and that, it might not be safe for the community," he said.
McDonald said sex offenders are simply not good candidates for her program. She's aware the city could shut down the Doe Fund.
"We are absolutely not going to put our staff, our trainees in blue or any community in New York City in danger," she said.
If the Doe Fund loses in court next week and refuses to take in the sex offenders, the program could lose its city funding. It raises a lot of private money but it may not be enough to sustain their programs.