Our Voice: Sex offenders need proper housing, for everyone's sake

July 16, 2013 

Residential neighborhoods are not the appropriate place for a boarding house, regardless of the tenants.

But when the occupants are sex offenders living without certified, professional help in the home, that's a huge concern.

No wonder the people who live on North Arthur Street in Kennewick are fed up with a neighbor who continually rents his modest house out to sex offenders released from prison.

At least 21 sex offenders have lived at the residence at 1132 N. Arthur St. since 2009, and of those, 13 were considered a high risk to re-offend, according to Kennewick police who monitor the home.

Recently, there were as many as six sex offenders living at the residence at one time, all paying rent to Roger Reiboldt, a self-ordained minister and leader of Steel Against Steel Ministries.

Reiboldt insists he is trying to help reform the tenants who come to his home, but police say he has no real credentials.

Reiboldt apparently charges each tenant $300 to $400 a month. The state can provide up to $500 a month for three months for offenders just released from prison so they can have a place to stay in a community.

Most offenders sentenced to prison in Washington are required to provide some kind of release plan, including an address, before they can be let go, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

Some offenders have no family and aren't able to plan living arrangements for when they are released from prison. If offenders in this situation remain in custody, it can cost up to $3,000 a month until a release plan is in place for them, the website said.

The voucher system was implented as a way to save taxpayer money and allow the offenders to get started somewhere in a community. It also reduces the likelihood that these offenders end up homeless, which puts them at risk of committing more crimes and makes it harder to keep track of them.

That all makes sense. But something has gone terribly wrong when these vouchers can be used to turn a home in a residential neighborhood into a boarding house.

Kennewick city code prohibits a house zoned as a single-family home from having more than three occupants who are not relatives paying rent. It's puzzling that city codes weren't enforced sooner, considering the police monitor the home and neighbors have complained to state and city officials about the situation.

But now the city should have even more authority to do something about the Reiboldt home.

A new law goes into effect July 28 that will allow city officials to remove a housing provider and give input before a provider can be approved by corrections officials.

Assume Reiboldt's heart is in the right place and he truly wants to help parolees in our community find a place to live.

If that's the case, he must find a better way to do it.

Simply opening up his home to sex offenders isn't the best situation for the community or his tenants. This predicament has gone on long enough. It's time for the city to rectify it.

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