I-Team: NYC Tries to Force Shelter to Take 50 Sex Offenders

The city is trying to force a shelter in Brooklyn to accept 50 sex offenders beginning this week, even though the shelter is not equipped to deal with those types of offenders, in order to abide by a state law that requires many sex offenders to live at least 1,000 feet from schools, the I-Team has learned. 

The Doe Fund, a reputable work program that moves its clients into private sector jobs and helps them become self-sufficient, runs the shelter in East Williamsburg and is suing to prevent the city from forcing it to take the sex offenders in.

The fund, led by director Harriet McDonald and her husband, George, who ran for mayor in 2013, runs a work program called Ready Willing & Able, which helps former inmates and the homeless get back on their feet. About 70 percent of its clients have a history of incarceration, the group says, though none of them have records as sex offenders.

The clients work to clean city streets -- many know them as the men in blue often seen picking up garbage and sweeping sidewalk at busy intersections -- and McDonald says that if the city has its way, at least 50 of these men, who are known in the community, would be displaced to make room for the sex offenders.

"They are expecting us to take 50 hardworking men rebuilding their lives, transfer them wherever, so that we take 50 sex offenders in their place," said McDonald, all because the shelter is more than 1,000 away from a school.

McDonald said the city tried two months ago to send her a convicted rapist who had raped three children, ages 3, 5 and 9. He only served five years for those crimes, she said.

McDonald said the Doe Fund got a call from the city Friday telling them to prepare to accept dozens of other sex offenders. She said her organization is refusing, and the Doe Fund filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court Wednesday to try to prevent the city from forcing its hand.

Attorneys for the Doe Fund says a judge denied its motion for a temporary restraining order. Even if the lawsuit fails, though, McDonald said she will refuse to accept the sex offenders and hope the organization's donors, which include former Mayor Bloomberg, would step up their support in the event the city pulled its funding.

"We have no knowledge, no experience, no psychiatrists" to deal with the sex offenders, said McDonald. 

The Doe Fund plans to appeal the judge's decision Thursday.

The city's Department of Homeless Services, which is required to provide shelter to all individuals regardless of criminal records, said it works closely with providers to ensure they have the necessary resources to serve high-risk clients appropriately.

"The majority of providers understand the importance of serving high-risk homeless populations and have been collaborative throughout this process,” the statement from the agency said.

The city had about 550 single registered sex offenders across the system as of May, and was working to move them to sites that were more than 1,000 feet from schools and facilities devoted to child care. The Department of Homeless Services is collaborating with other agencies, including the NYPD, and the departments of probation and corrections, on best practices.

The New York City Law Department did not respond to the I-Team's requests for comment.

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