Sex offender halfway home holds 'open house'

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 2 at 8:14 PM

On Tuesday, the Unity House in south Seattle opened its doors to the public, offering a rare look inside a sex offender halfway house.

Jim Tharpe, Unity House owner, looks at his home as an educational center for convicted sex offenders released from prison. The goal is to teach them to re-integrate back into society so they can get jobs and have a future.

"Bring about a learning experience for these men in a different way that helps them work with you in the long run," said Tharpe.

Tharpe says part of the home's success is community outreach and getting your neighbors to feel comfortable and safe. Unity House residents say that includes keeping the house clean and the grass cut.

"Keep your place looking good, keep your neighbors feeling safe about you," said Neil, one of the residents who has the duty of mowing the lawn. "And it helps."

Some of the visitors included residents from Puyallup and Marysville, who have been facing issues with sex offender housing.

"I'm impressed," said Puyallup City Manager Bill McDonald.

Last summer, neighbors and city administrators were caught off guard when a proposed "shared living facility" for ex-cons wanted to move into a residential area in Puyallup.

"Not on transit, poorly located, no resources," said McDonald. "They're going to need to engage the community."

Puyallup has been struggling to regulate sex offender housing, only to realize that the power lies at the state level.

State lawmakers are working on a new bill that would address problems with halfway houses under the Department of Corrections voucher program. ESB 5105 passed unanimously in the Senate and is now under consideration in the House.

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