KENT — It’s an ultimatum that could put 70 sex offenders back on the streets. The city of Kent is threatening to shut down 10 group homes that are breaking city code.
But most of the sex offenders are not budging, saying they have no where else to live. Each group homes faces a $500 fine per day starting in September and Kent’s mayor says the city will fight it out in court if they have to.
It’s the 6th largest city in Washington and in Kent more than 300 sex offenders now live in the city.
“These guys need a place to stay,” said group home manager Eddie Weber.
Weber manages six of the 10 homes the city is trying to shut down. His properties have been operating for years as clean and sober homes. Once the city realized multiple sex offenders were living together, the eviction notices went out in May.
“The existence of group homes housing sex offenders is illegal,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke.
“The Department of Corrections knows they are here, everyone who came here had to be approved to be here so we are trying to follow the rules,” said Weber.
Weber says he oversees 50 sex offenders who have nowhere to go but the streets, including many level 3 sex offenders who say a stable home keeps them in line.
“I would say so yes because here I have structure,” said one sex offender.
“Everybody has availability of apartments or other living situations where they could go to,” said Cooke.
“The idea that it’s easy for these people to find housing is ludicrous,” said Weber.
Some residents can empathize but says it’s still scary to know that as many as 10 sex offenders are living under one roof in some cases.
“I have two little kids so it’s a concern,” said Kent resident Felicia Tanner.
It’s so much of a concern that Tanner often uses an app on her cell phone often to track sex offenders.
But at least one neighbor is defending the group homes saying the city should leave them alone as long as the sex offenders are behaving. “If neighbors are comfortable with it why would anybody else care about it.”
The city of Kent not only cares but is now threatening legal action.
“Five hundred dollars a day or going to King County Superior court taking them to court on it,” said Cooke.
Weber says he is not budging.
“For now until I don’t have any ground to stand on,” said Weber.
Weber also says that because many of his sex offenders are going through rehab they have a legal right to stay in his program.
His next step is to try to get the feds involved. Until then he will face $3000 a day starting in September because he says the sex offenders will be more dangerous if they are forced into the streets.