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Housing For Ex-Felons

Bryan Buckalew
07/15/2010

Residents of Seattle's Central District have agreed to allow a halfway house for ex–felons in their neighborhood. It's called the "House of Another Chance." But neighbors are still concerned about whether the project will be successful. KUOW's Bryan Buckalew has more.

TRANSCRIPT

Most people agree ex–felons need transitional housing, but they don't always agree where that house should be. After months of back and forth between sponsors of the project and nearby residents, State Senator Adam Kline was called in to mediate.

Kline: "There was good faith on both sides. They understood each other. They listened first. That's the important thing. These were not a couple of people or a couple of sides just talking past each other. They looked at the realities, and they said, 'Oh, we can make this change, we can make that change.' They were just very receptive to one another."

The house will have live–in staff members and a 10:45 p.m. curfew. Former sex offenders, arsonists and anyone convicted of multiple murders or domestic violence will not be allowed. Smoking will be allowed in the back yard, not the front, and the names of each resident will be given to the neighborhood block watch. Randy Holt is the director of the project.

Holt: "I'm 24 years in recovery. So I've been on the dark side."

Buckalew: "What do you mean recovery?"

Holt: "I'm a recovering alcoholic and drug addict."

Holt says his time in recovery puts him in a unique position to teach people they can change.

Holt: "I've sat and interviewed people who come out of prison systems, and these people are just human beings that made mistakes. And now they're trying to get right."

He pauses for a moment and leans forward.

Holt: "You know, you can still teach old dogs new tricks. You know? You understand? So that's where we're at right now. So I'm an example. And that's one of the reasons I'm taking on this role. And I'm putting my heart and soul into it."

Despite all those good intentions, some neighbors are still concerned. Right next door lives Carolyn Johnson Davis. Davis says rehabilitating people in transitional housing is a good thing. But she's not sure the House of Another Chance has enough resources.

Buckalew: "When you originally heard they were going to put this house of another chance here, how did you feel?"

Davis: "I felt that it was not well planned, it was not well assessed, and they did not have the ability to develop a program and implement it."

Buckalew: "So, in general, you think they don't have enough experience to do what they're doing."

Davis: "Definitely."

Robert Jeffery is executive director for Black Dollar Days Taskforce, the organization behind the housing project. He says it's important to look for solutions.

Jeffery: "No country can long endure with all of the poverty and the people being left out. I mean, there are at least two million people in prison systems. We have to find methods and systems to re–orient these people so that the recidivism rate will go down."

The transitional house will open sometime next month, and there's already a waiting list to get in.

For KUOW News, I'm Bryan Buckalew.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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