Homeless Sex Offenders Face Eviction

State officials scrap under-the-bridge policy.

No surprise, then, that supervisors like Patricia Nelson are clutching at straws in an attempt to find housing.

"Sometimes churches are willing to help in these situations," she suggested to the men at one point during her visit. "Do any of you know a church that might be willing to help?"

Beverly, who asked that her full name be withheld, has taken on the task of finding housing for her son. He was released to the bridge a month ago after spending 18 months in jail on charges of child molestation. She says he is innocent. "I'm not asking [anybody] to be responsible for him — this is my child," she says. "But damn, give him some leeway that he can come stay with his mom, with me."

The greatest obstacle in the DOC's efforts to relocate the bridge-dwellers — not to mention in placing the dozens of sex offenders who will be released in Miami over the course of the next year — is they may refuse to leave the county. McDonough stops short of saying he will enforce the order to leave. "We have reviewed it all the way from the Constitution down. You cannot arrest someone because they do not have a place to live," he says. "That would be a violation of the Constitution."

Patrick Wiese, who has lived under the bridge since last July, believes the DOC is playing a game of chicken with local law enforcement. By advising the men to leave, Wiese says, the department puts the onus of arresting them on other agencies. "It's politics," he adds. "It's always been politics."

This past Monday, as the second eviction deadline loomed, several local news crews gathered under the bridge, cameras readied for the impending raid. It never came. "There is no deadline," DOC spokesperson Gretl Plessinger later told reporters.

That night the space under the bridge was full of people, as usual. For now, most of them will remain, 72 hours at a time.

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