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Ministry: City Forcing Nearly 40 Sex Offenders To Streets

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On July 1st, a law took effect that prohibited more than one sex offender from living within the same dwelling as another sex offender. On July 1st, a law took effect that prohibited more than one sex offender from living within the same dwelling as another sex offender.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

A sex offender community called Hand Up Ministries says Oklahoma City is forcing nearly 40 of its registered offenders out of its program and onto the streets. However, the city says there is much more to the story.

The Hand Up Ministries trailer park is located just east of Valley Brook. It is home to more than 15 percent of the Oklahoma City's registered sex offender population. In early July, a new law changed things at the ministry causing tents to pop up. Now, the tents must go.

For more than two weeks, 38 of the 170 men living at the ministry have been sweating it out in the tents. None of those men were willing to go on camera to tell News 9 what it has been like.

On July 1, a law took effect that prohibited more than one sex offender from living within the same dwelling as another sex offender.

"I really don't believe the legislators knew what would happen and what this really meant when they passed it," ministry manager Chris Hollrah said.

7/02/2012 Related Story: New Oklahoma Law Forcing Sex Offenders Into Tents Raises Concern

Lawmakers and the city both say the idea behind all of this is to keep people who are likely to reoffend away from others who are likely to reoffend.

Before the new law, two or three sex offenders lived in most, if not all, of the ministry's trailers. So, in order to comply with the law, tents were put up. But, it turns out the tents are also against the law.

"[The ministry] is violating its zoning because, as a mobile home park, it cannot have tents on the property," Deputy Chief Johnny Kuhlman with Oklahoma City police said.

The ministry says forcing the tents down will turn the men homeless and put them and the city at risk for additional crime.

"They're more likely to reoffend with a crime to put a roof over their head or to put food in their mouths," Hollrah said. "A lot of them don't find anything…they end up back in prison because they can't register."

Police say most of the 1,100 sex offenders in Oklahoma City do not live in organizations like Hand Up Ministries. The city says it's confident the men will find other locations to live legally. Code enforcement officers have given the organization 30 days to pack up the tents.

Ministry leaders attempted to get the new law thrown out in federal court but were unsuccessful.

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