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Homeless Ga. sex offenders seek new place to live

Sex Offender Camp

Homeless Ga. sex offenders seek new place to live

MARIETTA, Ga. – Georgia probation officers tried to line up temporary housing on Tuesday for nine homeless sex offenders who were kicked out of a makeshift tent city behind a suburban Atlanta office park where state officials had directed them to live.

State officials ordered the offenders to leave Monday night after The Associated Press reported details of the unique arrangement, said Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren. Many met with their probation officers Tuesday and were told that authorities were trying to find them hotels, shelters or other temporary places to live.

“I feel like I’m living on a roller coaster. It’s like up and down, up and down,” said Marque Miechurski, a 30-year-old convicted of child molestation who said Tuesday he found a temporary place to live.

“You know, I just want to go back to a sense of normalcy, to having a place to live and having a place to work. You know, that’s all I want — I just want the basics.”

Officers informed offenders of the camp as a “last resort” for people who could not find places that complied with Georgia’s strict restrictions on sex offenders, said Ahmed Holt, manager of the state’s sex offender administration unit.

Corrections spokeswoman Sharmelle Brooks said officers are working to help the offenders find “suitable housing.” She said authorities are going “to great lengths to find approved locations, including lodges and faith-based facilities,” but the few options that meet guidelines often cost more than the homeless can afford.

One of the men, William Hawkins, 34, said probation officials informed him of a hotel in Cherokee County that complies with the law, although he’s uncertain how long he can afford to stay there.

He said his probation officer also told him they were filing emergency paperwork to transfer his probation to Virginia, where his wife lives. It’s not clear how long that will take or what the conditions of his probation will be in Virginia, he said.

“This may help me in the long run, which is what I’m hoping,” he said, adding that he hopes his situation makes the public more aware “that not everybody should be under these conditions.”

The encampment is an unintended consequence of a Georgia law that bans the state’s 16,000 sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks and other spots where children gather.

Warren said more than 300 other sex offenders in Cobb County have found places to live that comply with state law. But for those who can’t afford their own housing or bunk with relatives, homeless shelters and halfway houses are often not an option because offenders can’t be near children.

Hawkins, who was in prison for violating probation by failing to register as a sex offender in Georgia, and others had tried to make the muddy camp relatively comfortable. They cooked food on a donated grill, took showers under a bag of water they filled up at the office park, and were storing away wood for the coming winter.

Hawkins’ wife, Mindy, said the thought of her husband living in the woods has been a constant concern. She said she hopes he will be allowed to move to Virginia so her husband can finish out his probation with her in their home.

“He’s constantly in my mind. I always wonder where he’s going to get his next meal, where he’s going to shower,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

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Republicans begin 2012 US election

Republicans begin 2012 US election

 

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum led in preliminary results, but the race remains too close to call with votes held in more than 1,700 caucuses.

Six Republican contenders spent Tuesday making frantic final appeals to voters.

The caucus meetings are the first time voters have a say in the race to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s general election.

Tuesday evening’s contest launches months of caucuses and primary elections in 50 states, Washington DC and other territories, culminating in the Republican National Convention in August where the party nominee will be formally anointed.
About 120,000 voters gathered at more than 1,700 fire stations, schools, public buildings and private homes ahead of the official 20:00 EST (01:00 GMT) start to the voting.

An Associated Press poll of voters ahead of the start of the caucus start confirmed that former Massachusetts Governor Romney, Texas Congressman Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum formed the top tier of candidates.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry are also in the race. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is on the ballot, but did not campaign in Iowa.

Preliminary exit poll results from ABC News indicated independent voters – who are allowed to register as Republicans and participate in the caucuses – had voted heavily in favour of Mr Paul.
Evangelical Christians were split between Mr Santorum and Mr Paul, and the half of caucus-goers describing themselves as “very conservative” were tilting to Mr Santorum.

Also, ABC’s exit poll showed Mr Romney doing well among older voters – a significant chunk of the electorate.
Small town affairs

In the caucuses, voters are allowed to speak on behalf of the candidates they support, followed by a vote, the results of which are transmitted on to the media and to the state Republican party.

Many of the caucuses are tiny affairs held in small towns in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

In Dawson, fewer than 20 voters gathered at a fire station to hold a caucus amid the fire trucks, reports BBC North America Editor Mark Mardell.

A hall in a school in Des Moines was overflowing with caucus goers, reports the BBC’s Steve Kingstone.

“It’s hard to spot a Bachmann fan, but other candidates all have support here,” he reports.

Iowa is not expected to settle the contest – John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee in 2008, came fourth in the state’s caucuses that year – but it will help shape the race for the White House.

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