BOULDER - The director of Boulder's homeless shelter is explaining a program that gives parolees, including sex offenders, a free place to sleep temporarily.
Boulder police notified the public on Monday that Christopher Lawler will use a parole bed at the shelter on North Broadway after he wasn't able to find a home.
He pleaded guilty to sexual assault in 2001 in the kidnapping and rape of a newspaper delivery woman.
Greg Harms, the shelters director said, “ When people see it in the news they often get upset and don't understand why we accept sex offenders here.”
Providing shelter to those without a home is what the shelter is known for. Sometimes that includes people on parole.
“We work with local probation and we also work with parole and DOC at the state level to try and re-entry folks into the shelter rather than on the streets,” Harms said.
One of its latest residents is Christopher Lawyer. Authorities are calling him a sexually violent predator because of his past conviction.
News that he'd have a free bed at the shelter led some to react with anger on Facebook.
The shelter's director says most parolees using the shelter aren't violent criminals. And for those who are, it's partly an issue of safety.
“The reason we accept sex offenders at the shelter is because we work with local law enforcement,” said Harms.
He says they believe giving these offenders a place to stay helps the community, in a way.
“Law enforcement and the shelter believe that the community is safer when they are living in the shelter rather than living in their car or living under a bridge where they have no structure and police don't know where they are,” Harms said.
Across the state the DOC says there are nearly 200 parolees living in shelters right now, but it's not a permanent home.
“Typically they are allowed to stay up to 90 days in the winter and 60 in the summer,” Harms said.
People we spoke to about the program say it makes them uncomfortable, but they understand parolees need somewhere to live.
“It's selfish to push them off to another community but you can't group them into one area because then you might have more problems,” said Christopher Shumake, who lives near a sex offender.
“You take the normal precautions, knowing those people are in our community and they have been and they will be,” Harms.
The shelter director also says out of 160 beds they reserve five or fewer for parolees.
The DOC says it pays shelters anywhere from $60 to more than $200 per week to house a parolee. The spokesperson for DOC couldn't say where exactly that funding comes from.
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