O.U.R Passion Kennewick Progress House
Seventy people crowded a Kennewick meeting room for two hours of questions, accusations and finally a concession about sex offenders and drug offenders living in their neighborhood.
Most of the residents live near the West Fourth Avenue transitional group home that houses nine people with drug problems, most of them returning to the community from prison.
Five of the nine living there now also have sex crime convictions.
Kennewick and state officials told the residents that the homeowner Steve Ouradnik cannot be blocked from accepting sex offenders there.
The 62-year-old counselor opened his first of two homes in Yakima eight years ago. His second opened soon after, and the Department of Corrections encouraged him to start a Kennewick location, which opened in February.
Ouradnik’s home, called Progress House, is one of 33 in Benton County working with the state to help prisoners with drug problems transition back into society, said Karen Takacs, with the state Department of Corrections.
“The Department of Corrections provides recently released individuals various resources and referrals to services to support their successful transition back into the community,” Takacs said. “The department assists during an individual’s transitional period in an effort to encourage stability.”
At least three other homes in Kennewick also accept sex offenders, said Kennewick Officer Roman Trujillo.
City officials explained that the city is notified by the state when former inmates are place at the home, but City Attorney Lisa Beaton said years of federal law prevents the city from regulating who can or can’t live in a home.
The city also can’t limit how many live at the house or whether they’re related, said Evelyn Lusignan, a city spokeswoman.
All of it is further complicated by the fact that under federal law both substance abuse and mental health issues are considered disabilities, and are protected by the federal law, said officials.
Ouradnik’s house is near two day cares, a pool, a park and dozens of children. But state corrections officials noted that not every sex offender is required to stay away from those locations. It has to be ordered by the judge when they’re sentenced.
Several neighbors at the meeting said they learned about the transitional group home when a man they called B.K. was walking around the neighborhood wearing a Burger King crown, saying “Hello” to everyone.
In addition to some mental health issues he also has a 2014 conviction for second-degree child molestation.
Ouradnik said Lourdes Health placed him at the home but he later violated the terms of his release and was returned to prison.
It wasn’t until weeks later that neighbors learned he was a sex offender living at the group home they didn’t know existed.
Trujillo told the crowd there is no state law that requires notifying neighbors when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood. He generally focuses on alerting nearby homes that are at the greatest risk.
“I understand that nobody wants one of these houses in their neighborhood,” he said. “I absolutely understand I’m a father of a kindergarten-aged child.”
Of the five sex offenders currently at the home, three of them are classified as Level 1 offenders, which are considered the least likely to reoffend. Two other are listed as Level 2s.
Teresa Carlson and Ron Peterson with the Department of Corrections said the offenders with court requirements are told to keep in touch with the department and are monitored more often.
After nearly two hours of hearing the city could not force the home to move, one woman offered a compromise. Speaking directly to Ouradnik, she begged him to stop taking Level 2 offenders.
But not everyone was happy. Some continued to urge him to move out all the sex offenders or to close altogether.
Several said they planned to start a Neighborhood Watch program or possibly hire an attorney to look closer at the issue.