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Friday, January 30, 2009

MI- Man found in snow had no place to turn

UPDATE 3-21-09: MI- Calls for reform in treatment of homeless echo at candlelight vigil in Grand Rapids for sex offender Thomas Pauli

1-30-2009: See earlier stories. Died because of a ill conceived law that protects no one. Given that there has not been a single crime reported nationwide, occurring in a protected place (school, etc.) caused by a registered sex offender residing within the proscribed distance of that protected place, this is a testament to the short sightedness of lawmakers.

Consider this, if the missions accepted him to sleep for the night, placing him within the proscribed distance to the prohibited places, those prohibited places would not even have any children in them at that time he would be sleeping. Clearly the laws protect no one:

1-30-2009 Michigan:

Thomas Pauli was found dead Jan. 26

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids homeless advocates say a man found dead in the snow had been frustrated because he could not find a place to stay.

A business owner found the body of Thomas Pauli, 52, next to the old A to Z Radiator shop in the 600 block of S. Division Ave. on Jan. 26. Pauli was crouched in a kneeling position. The medical examiner says the autopsy was inconclusive, though evidence showed Pauli might have froze to death. Police say foul play was not involved.

Officials at Degage Ministries, a mission that offers myriad programs for people in need, say they believe Pauli was unable to get into a shelter because he is on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

State law "prohibits convicted sex offenders from residing, working or loitering within a student safety zone which is defined as the area that lies 1,000 feet or less from school property."
That law makes the Guiding Light Mission on Grand Rapids' Division Avenue off limits because Catholic Central High School is nearby. The Guiding Light Mission, however, is refusing to say whether it had been forced to turn Thomas Pauli away. Shelter officials told 24 Hour News 8 they do not keep record of the people they turn away. But The Guiding Light did confirm that it refuses shelter to two to three people a month because of the state law regarding sex offenders. Pauli was convicted in 1991 of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a child under the age of 13 in Grand Traverse County. Lori King, a supervisor at the Degage Life Enrichment Center, said Pauli was an intelligent, quiet and gentle man who had struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. She also said Pauli had gone through rehab and once told her he wanted to go back to school. "He voiced how hard it was for him to find housing, to find employment, just to be accepted back into society, like he had a big X on his head and nobody was going to give him a chance," King told 24 Hour News 8. "I was nauseated to think about him outside freezing. I knew why he was outside. Enraged is putting it lightly." Target 8 did a special investigation into the law designed to protect children, which unintentionally isolates convicted sex offenders. This makes it difficult for police to track their whereabouts and even harder for people on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry to get another shot. "They're upholding the law, but that causes such a hardship for people in our community. People who've done their time but still have the stigma attached to them," said Marge Palmerlee, executive director of Degage Ministries. "There needs to be an exemption for homeless shelters or we're going to have more tragedies," said homeless advocate Don Tack. It's a problem Target 8 looked into nearly three years ago. At the time, even the Grand Rapids Police Department was concerned that some sex offenders were hard to find because of the law -- homeless with no address. It's as if the law keeping them from living near schools defeated the other law requiring them to register so police know where they are. "We've had conversations with political folks about the need to amend this and didn't really get anywhere in the past," said Tack. Tack thinks Pauli's death might renew interest in amending the law. There are already some exemptions built into the Michigan Sex Offender Registry law allowing patients in mental health facilities, for example, to live within those 1,000-foot school safety zones as they are known. ..News Source.. by Henry Erb and Jessica Leffler -------------------------------------------------------------- MI- UPDATE- Death of homeless sex offender in Grand Rapids poses questions 1-29-2009 Michigan: So is this what it finally takes for us to hear the muffled cries of the homeless -- an ex-con dead in the snow because it's against the law for a sex offender to huddle up at either of two Grand Rapids missions? Thomas Pauli didn't choose to die alone in the cold. He apparently froze to death because of a crime he committed nearly 20 years ago, and a law that's dogged him ever since his release from prison. In the days prior to the discovery of his body Monday morning at a recycling operation in the 600 block of South Division Avenue, he reportedly attempted to score a bed at either or both the Guiding Light Mission and Mel Trotter Ministries, just blocks away. But officials at both facilities reluctantly acknowledge they would have turned him away because registered sex offenders can't reside for even one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High. Never mind that school isn't in session during the hours a guy like Pauli would have been snoozing away on a warm cot. Or that ex-cons -- or anyone else -- are more likely a threat to a neighborhood when they have nowhere to go. When they are desperate.
Weather information for Grand Rapids for January 2009 (Added by eAdvocate)
The problem is compounded by the fact that both missions are too near a pair of public parks, and that Mel Trotter houses women and children. All those elements also render the missions lawfully unable to accept offenders. The missions aren't to blame. They risk fines or even being shut down if they don't comply with the law.
--Given that there is nothing in registration law which would fine or cause them to be shut down, what law or other authority are they speaking of? If there is anyone who knows of their authority (laws) please contact
But it's a law that needs changing. And we need to re-examine our collective level of commitment to a part of society that, to most of us, matters least. Asks Bill Shaffer, an officer with Guiding Light, "How do we treat the unlovable?" "I couldn't sleep last night thinking about Thomas Pauli freezing to death outside," said a tearful Marge Palmerlee, executive director at Degage Ministries, which cares for folks like Pauli who live and frequent the Heartside area on downtown's fringe. "Who can sleep at night, thinking of these people outside. It's just unbelievable." No, it's not. I'll bet that even before readers got to my fourth paragraph, some were thinking that Thomas Pierrie Pauli, who was born on Christmas Eve 52 years ago, got what he deserved. OK, so he spent time in the joint. Big whup. A sex offender should pay forever. Maybe so. I know too many people -- people close to me -- who have been victims of sexual assaults. In Pauli's case, he was convicted in Grand Traverse County in 1991 of second-degree criminal sexual conduct against a person younger than 13. Of the 5 to 15 years to which he was sentenced, he served more than 11. Not exactly a slap on the wrist. His wife divorced him two years into his stint. After his release in 2003, he eventually ended up at an address on Leonard Street NE. But he wandered from there and ended up roaming Heartside's gritty domain. He checked in and out of Project Rehab. On Dec. 30, he was booked for failing to register his address with authorities. He got 16 days for that misdemeanor and was freed Jan. 14.
--Note: At least he was warm in jail for those two weeks. If one thinks about it, and reviews the temperature chart for January, it is likely he PURPOSELY "Failed to Register" so that he had a place to stay where it was warm.
Sometime during the past two weeks, he tried to bed down at either or both missions, according to Palmerlee, who knows of two people saying they saw Pauli standing in lines. "A patron told me they'd seen him in Mel Trotter's line not long ago," added Lori King, life enrichment center supervisor at Degage. Officials at both missions cannot confirm Pauli tried to get in, but they also can't rule it out, because they don't track applicants who are refused admission, only those who make it across the threshold. Either way, they said it breaks their hearts to know they have to abide by a law that puts men in life-or-death situations. "Ethically, it feels like we're responsible," said Bill Merchut, in charge of programs at Mel Trotter. "But we have to follow the law. "These men and women are clearly 'The Scarlet Letter' folks of our day. "I've had (sex offenders) say, 'Where can I go?' and I stand there with my mouth open and I have no answer." There aren't many options for men seeking overnight shelter outside of the two missions. In a perfect world, there would be a homeless shelter located where it could accept sex offenders. Maybe a place like the former Greyhound bus station, Merchut said. Or perhaps the former site of a corrections center on Wealthy Street SW near the Grand River. But any solution will require a monstrous coalition. And money. Don Lamse was the gentleman who found Pauli about 10 a.m. Monday in a parking area adjacent to the auto recycling operation he manages on South Division. The victim was beside a '93 or '94 GMC conversion van. Lamse, 70, walked over and tried to rouse him. "Hey, hey," Lamse remembers saying. "Something like that." Pauli was bent into a crouching position, knees and hands on the ground. He wore no gloves. "I tried to nudge him a bit while I was talking to him, and he felt pretty stiff." Lamse said he found it odd that Pauli didn't crawl into any one of several unlocked vehicles, the van included. "He could have gone inside and had some shelter if he'd just opened a door.
--With no gloves and a temperature of -3 degrees, would anyone's hands work to pull on metal objects (doors, likely jammed from accidents) to gain access to the inside of the vehicle.
He added, "That's not a nice way for anybody to die." ..News Source.. by Tom Rademacher | The Grand Rapids Press -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michigan Registered Sex Offender Killed by State Sex Offender Residency Law 1-28-2009 Michigan: Man found dead in cold was turned away from shelters in past because he was sex offender GRAND RAPIDS -- A man found dead on the streets Monday had tried in recent weeks to gain admittance to at least one of two Heartside missions, but was denied a bed because he is a registered sex offender. Officials say its possible Thomas Pauli might be alive today except for a state law prohibiting him from establishing a residence even for one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High, also located in the Heartside district. "It's heartbreaking. I have a hard time even talking about it," said Marge Palmerlee, executive director at Degage Ministries. Palmerlee said she had talked to at least two people who told her Pauli had tried earlier this month to secure a bed at one or both missions. Bill Merchut of Mel Trotter and Bill Shaffer of Guiding Light agreed that Pauli may have tried to gain entrance, but that their missions risk fines and loss of license if they admit sex offenders. They do not track everyone who applies for a bed, only those who are admitted, so while they were sure Pauli had not been admitted, they couldn't be sure if he had tried.
--Note: Tracking those admitted and not tracking those not addmitted are different functions. Think about this, in order to reject someone (i.e., a sex offender) there has to be a procedure to CHECK a person applying for admittance, and there has to be a person assigned to that function. Notice how they skirted checking with persons assigned to that function, they most definitely would remember if they rejected someone because they were a registered sex offender. Why? Further, nothing in sex offender registration laws addresses "fines or loss of license" so what law are they speaking of?
They both decried a system where there are no exceptions to the so-called Megan's Law, which sets boundaries and restrictions for those on the list. "We have to follow the law, but ethically, it feels like were responsible," said Merchut. Added Shaffer, "These men and women are clearly 'The Scarlet Letter' folks of our day. And where do they go? I have no answer." Pauli, 52, served 11 years in prison for a 1991 conviction in Grand Traverse County for second-degree criminal sexual conduct, state records show. He was released in 2003 and was required to register as a sex offender. Results of an autopsy are not yet available. ..Source.. by The Grand Rapids Press ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Grand Rapids man found dead was turned away from shelters based on CSC conviction GRAND RAPIDS(WZZM)- The man found dead on South Division Avenue may not have been able to find a place to stay. A business owner found Thomas Pauli's body Monday morning. Rob Munger, Executive Director of Guiding Light Mission says they have refused Pauli a place to stay in the past because he is a convicted sex offender. Munger says he does not know whether Pauli asked to stay at Guiding Light the night that he died. Pauli was convicted of 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual conduct with a person under 13 years old in Grand Traverse County. Munger says under state law all missions must turn away convicted sex offenders. Toxicology tests were inconclusive as to what caused Pauli's death. Temperatures the night he died did get down to zero. ..Source.. by Jessica Puchala and Chris Fleszar ------------------------------------------------------------------------ How do we protect at-risk populations from cold? To those who knew him, Thomas Pauli was an educated man, a quiet, gentle person who loved to read. So it's unclear why the 52-year-old man, who recently completed a rehab program, died on the streets in the cold. His body was discovered Monday in the snow inside a fenced auto salvage business, huddled near the wheel of a car in the 600 block of South Division Avenue. Pauli was among eight Michigan men and women -- four of them senior citizens -- found dead in the cold since Jan. 17. ..Source.. by The Grand Rapids Press -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8th Mich. Resident Dies From Harsh Weather A Grand Rapids man is the eighth person in nine days to be found dead in the Michigan cold. The body of 52-year-old Thomas Pauli was found this week in the snow at an auto salvage business in Grand Rapids. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of death, but it doesn't appear to be suspicious. The eight victims were found dead in the cold between Jan. 17 and Jan. 26, when Pauli's body was discovered. Four were older than 80. The Grand Rapids Press reports seven of the eight victims were found outside. Many apparently fell on their own property and couldn't get up. Ninety-three-year-old Marvin Schur froze to death inside his Bay City home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills. ..Source.. by ClickOnDetroit


Anonymous said...

Could we also say that the charities/missions could serve their clients needs better? I'm sure this is not the first person on the sexual offenders list to seek shelter and/or food. Money is tight and needs are great but I think there could be other measures if people would think "outside the box" Vouchers and transport to lo-cost motels. Other facilities in town such as churches etc that could be used in emergency situations such as this recent cold spell. The schools have been there many years before the missions. And the fact that women and kids are now needing shelter should not make them less safe because some want shelters to take in convicted sex offenders. No I do not think the law should be changed. Some may argue there has been no offenses so why have the law? Could it be there are no offenses because of the law?

Magister said...

I read the Michigan law for criminal misconduct with child under 13 and there are a lot of different crimes this man could have committed. We need MORE information on the registries so we can make better decisions.
So this man had been out in this community 8 years without re offense and he was still treated worse than an animal.
If the State or Community want to waste their time and resources on an ineffective law like residency restrictions then they should be responsible to providing shelter to those people.