Was a homeless registrant who was found dead in the Michigan snow this week a victim of the frigid polar vortex that swept through half the country? (Autopsy report pending.)
Or, was he the victim of Michigan’s state sex offender laws which deny emergency shelter to “sex offenders” even during the most brutal weather?
What about the homeless registrant found frozen to death behind a Waffle House in Springfield, Missouri? The man’s snow covered body was found by other homeless people seeking shelter from the frigid weather.
How many registrants have to die, frozen to the ground before “sex offender” laws are changed allowing these human beings into shelters during emergencies? How far have we fallen as a country, as a society that we ban people from shelters, leave them to die in the cold and their death becomes nothing more than a quickly read and dismissed news article.
Andrew M. Rodiger, 58, died alone behind a Waffle House in Springfield, Missouri. The conviction that put him on the registry was from 2008. According to the county medical examiner, Rodiger appeared to be homeless and likely died of hypothermia. The Salvation Army shelters were open in Springfield the night he died but picture ID’s are required and “Sex Offender” background checks are done, this may have kept Mr. Rodiger out in the cold.
Thomas Paulie, 52, was found dead in the snow of an auto body shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Monday. According to homeless staffers who knew him it was unclear if he had attempted to seek refuge at one of the local shelters the night he died, but he had in the past and was always turned away. Michigan state law prohibits sex offenders from staying within 1000ft of a school. (I suppose that’s where all the shelters were located.) Interesting fact, shelters don’t keep records of those they turn away. I imagine if they were required to there might be all sorts of litigation by family and friends who find out that a registrant they loved was turned away by a shelter and left to freeze to death.
State Sen. Nancy Cassis who supports Michigan’s sex offender law thinks that the laws are sound and blames the “social safety net” for failing Mr. Paulie. Her comments “What other options did they give him? Were police contacted? How about the Salvation Army? Or soup kitchens, there’s plenty of them. What about synagogues and churches? I view them all as part of the safety net,” are callous. She’s reaching for any entity she can to be the scapegoat for the state’s registry failure.
The “social safety net” is a figment of Ms. Cassis’ imagination, it doesn’t exist for registrants. Let’s review Ms. Cassis, shelters are often the last resort for homeless, there aren’t a lot of options. Police are not in the habit of providing shelter in local jails. The Salvation Army checks ID and most turn away “sex offenders”. Soup kitchens serve food, they don’t provide housing. Synagogues and churches are places of worship, not shelters. Need I explain more?
The shelters turned Mr. Paulie and perhaps Mr. Rodiger away because of people like State Sen. Cassis, people who support” “sex offender residency laws”, laws that leave registrants and their families homeless or in cases like these, dead. These are the people responsible for Mr. Paulie and Mr. Rodiger’s deaths, not those running the shelters, they’re just following the laws that the states have passed. Don’t try to pass the buck on this one, don’t try to put the blame on others, the blame belongs solely on the states and the governing bodies that pass these laws.
Ms. Cassis goes on to say that “children should be protected from sexual predators, but you just can’t slam the door on another human being”, and then she questioned whether Mr. Paulie should have been released from prison.
For Ms. Cassis’ benefit let’s go over this for the gazillionth time, not all registrants are sexual predators. If Ms. Cassis doesn’t know that one simple fact, she shouldn’t be giving news interviews. And what gives Ms. Cassis the right to question whether or not Mr. Paulie should be out of prison? His offense was in 1991! He’d obviously done his time for his crime. He was released in 2003 and yet sixteen years later this registrant was still having difficulty finding housing. Sixteen years! What does that say about how Michigan’s sex offender laws affect registrants? Where’s that “social safety net”?
Lori King, supervisor of Degage Ministries Life Enrichment Center had worked with Mr. Paulie and described him as “a very quiet man with impeccable manners. He wasn’t at all what society would label him to be.” Ms. King wanted people to know that Thomas Paulie “wasn’t a monster”.
The blame for Thomas Paulie’s death, for Andrew M. Rodiger’s death belongs to the states and their representatives that failed them. It belongs to those who passed and supported laws which effectively banned registrants from seeking shelter in a storm. It belongs to shelters that discriminate against registrants with no empirical evidence to back up their “need for safety” claims.
They are responsible for these men and countless others who are dying cold and alone.
They are responsible for labeling these people pariahs in the eyes of society and for keeping them homeless.
They are responsible for the fictitous “social safety net”, for expecting others to provide the necessary support services that they should be providing.
The blame for Thomas Paulie and Andrew M. Rodiger’s deaths, for the deaths of all those registrants who die cold and alone on dark, frigid, snowy nights, in Missouri, in Michigan, anywhere, is solely on the states that pass cruel and unusual “sex offender” laws.
RIP my friends.