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Some sex offenders now live in woods, Oklahoma City ministry's officials say

Hand Up Ministries in Oklahoma City has removed tents housing sex offenders from its property, but some former residents now live in the woods, ministry officials say.
by Juliana Keeping Modified: August 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm •  Published: September 1, 2012

More than a month after an Oklahoma City ministry was warned to remove tents housing sex offenders from its property, some of the men have moved into trailers.

Others have left; some of them are living at undisclosed locations in the woods, according to ministry officials.

Since a law that prohibits sex offenders from living together in manufactured homes took effect July 1, several dozen offenders at Hand Up Ministries' 2130 SE 59 location have had to find a new place to live.

“We put some of them in trailers that had no electricity or water, but they have an address where they can register,” ministry Director James Womack said. “We're working on getting water and electric to them as fast as we can.”

Today, 143 men live at the trailer park, down from a peak of about 250, Womack said. Previously, the ministry housed two or three men in each trailer. The tents were put up to house men who had no where else to go after the new law took effect, according to the ministry.

In mid-July, the ministry was told the property wasn't zoned for tents.

Frequent inspections

Residents pay a weekly program fee of $100, said the ministry's founder, the Rev. David Nichols. They receive spiritual support, help finding work and rides to treatment centers. The men have a curfew and must follow rules, such as avoiding drugs and alcohol.

The statute approved by lawmakers in 2011 clarified an existing law designed to keep sex offenders from living together. Police said such arrangements make it more difficult to investigate criminal allegations.

Since the law took effect July 1, the Oklahoma City Development Services Department has inspected the property three times. Ministry officials say they're being targeted by the city and police, but city officials counter that three compliance checks since July 1 is just business as usual.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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