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story by Leila Atassi, The Plain Dealer
 
About two-thirds of the registered sex offenders who claim to live at a men’s homeless shelter on Cleveland’s East Side, either have not spent a night there in the past three months or have never even set foot in the place. 

And a Plain Dealer analysis suggests several of them might be living surreptitiously in the suburbs.

Court records and information provided by administrators at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, which runs the shelter at 2100 Lakeside Ave., confirm that more than 100 of the 166 sex offenders registered to that address are unaccounted for.

Increasingly stringent limitations on where sex offenders can live have driven many to register under false addresses and live off the grid — beyond monitoring and treatment, say sex offender management and re-entry specialists.

And as the county’s list of sex offenders grows to more than 3,000, with fewer resources to monitor them, it is impossible to know how many might have registered under one location and are living at another.

State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care facility, and many communities have passed ordinances expanding those restrictions to include parks, libraries, even churches.

But detectives argue that, although residency restrictions pose housing problems for some, in most cases, the offenders simply are attempting to keep their whereabouts unknown.

“If there were no restrictions at all on where these guys could live, they would still lie to us,” Detective Sue DeChant said in a recent interview. “They say they’re not working, and they have a job. They say they don’t have a vehicle, and they own 25 of them. They just don’t want anyone to know who they are.”

Sex offenders must register their address and other information with the sheriff’s office every 90 days for a period of at least 10 years. The information, along with photos of the offenders, is posted on the state attorney general’s website and is intended to alert residents of the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

After an offender is convicted, he or she has three days to register, a process that takes about an hour initially.

Playing a game of cat-and-mouse

DeChant said in many cases, it is obvious the offenders are not homeless when they try to register as a resident at the men’s shelter. They often show up wearing nice clothes, jewelry or expensive-looking sunglasses and accessories, she said. Photos of the offenders on the registry website corroborate the detective’s observations.

But offenders are required only to sign a document pledging that the information they provide is accurate, and they do not have to prove residency.

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Story Compliments Of The Plain Dealer

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