Registrants and their families are suffering in the State of Georgia. The cause of their greatest concern is a state law that prohibits anyone convicted of a sex offense that took place after July 1, 2008, from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of a long list of locations including schools, churches and any place “where children congregate”. As a result of this law, there are thousands of families in Georgia that are already homeless or could become homeless at a moment’s notice.
One of those families includes a man convicted of a single sex offense who is currently on probation. He and his wife are lucky because they both have jobs and can afford to rent a home in order to live together while raising their infant daughter. That man has asked his probation officer for permission to rent a home at five different addresses, however, his probation office has refused to approve him and his family living at any of those addresses
To make matters worse, the man’s probation officer is forcing him to live in Tent City, a small triangle of land that is bordered by a state highway and an off-ramp. It is a small triangle of land that has no electricity, running water or sanitation. It is also a small triangle of land that is full of rats, snakes and spiders. Further, it is a small triangle of land which can only be escaped from by breaking another law, that is, by walking across a state highway.
There are at least a dozen other men who are required to live in Tent City. Some of those men have just arrived while others have lived there for three years or more. One of the men currently living in Tent City is a disabled veteran, who fought for our country for more than 14 years in both the Marines and the U.S. Army. Without warning, he was arrested while living in a veteran’s home in Columbus that welcomed him and provided him with a room to sleep in as well as three meals a day. After his arrest, this disabled veteran spent more than two months in jail because law enforcement determined that the veterans’ home, he was living in was less than 1,000 feet from a church. Upon release from jail, the veteran’s probation officer told him he could not return to the veteran’s home, but instead was required to live in Tent City.
Another man currently living in Tent City asked his probation officer permission to live with his father in a nearby town. The probation officer denied that request as well as three additional requests to live with friends or relatives. Because this man has a job, he could afford to pay for housing. However, he is prohibited from living in a home with running water, electricity and a toilet because his probation officer requires him to remain in Tent City.
In addition to the inhumane conditions found in Tent City, residents there face several additional challenges. For example, gunshots are often fired nearby. Although no one has yet been injured by those gunshots, one resident was threatened with death by a man who pointed a gun at his face.
Another challenge facing the residents of Tent City is that they are prohibited from entering a public shelter even in the face of a hurricane. One resident who feared the falling of trees at Tent City during a recent storm left Tent City and chose instead to shelter under the overhang of a local convenience store that was closed.
It is inhumane for anyone to be required to live in Tent City or any other location that lacks electricity, running water and sanitation. It is inhumane for families to be forced apart because a probation officer refuses to approve a residential address. This law must be stopped!
Photos from Tent City
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— by Janice Bellucci
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