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Rescue Mission's move will put sex offenders on street

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Imagine trying to find rental housing for a friend. Now imagine your friend is a registered sex offender, and you've got about two weeks to find them a home. Now imagine you have many of these friends.

That's the situation that officers with the Idaho Probation and Parole division are in, now that the Boise Rescue Mission on Front Street is preparing to close its doors.

After nearly 30 years as a homeless shelter, the Rescue Mission's building at the corner of 5th and Front streets is set to be razed for a high-rise development. When the property was sold, the Rescue Mission began moving residents to its newer building on River Street.

But while most residents moved out, the Rescue Mission quietly allowed several men to continue to continue living at the Front Street facility.

Most of the men living there are registered sex offenders with the Ada County Sheriff's Office. In fact, according to the Sheriff's Office, some 15 registered sex offenders list the Front Street location as their primary address.

Now, with the building set to be torn down, the Rescue Mission and several agencies that manage sex offenders are scrambling to find housing for the men.

"It's a tough situation," said Bill Roscoe, the executive director of the Boise Rescue Mission. "We thought that when we bought our new building, that we would move everyone over."

But because the River Street facility is within 500 feet of Anser Charter School, registered sex offenders are prohibited by state law to live there.

"We have advised everybody," Roscoe said. "Come August, it's going to be the end of the line."

It may come sooner. Four of the men are on probation with Idaho's Department of Probation and Parole. Moira Lynch, who supervises a sex offender unit for the agency, said she was told they have until June 15 to move their parolees.

"We are actively seeking to get them an apartment or regular housing," Lynch said. "It's becoming more and more difficult."

As landlords change their minds, or pressure from neighbors or other influences increases, agencies like Lynch's have a tough time placing people who have such a societal stigma attached to them.

"People have a natural and understandeable fear of having sex offenders live in their neighborhoods," said Ken Bennett, the district manager for Probation and Parole.

Ironically, another shelter recently announced its opening, but said it would bar the application of any registered sex offenders.

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