Director of the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) and City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy last fall objected to developer Marty Kotis placing a charter school in the old Dorothy Bardolph Building on the corner of Washington and Church streets downtown.
Kennedy said that a number of people who used the IRC were registered sex offenders and it would be a hardship for them since the IRC is right down Washington Street from the Bardolph Building.
During that discussion, it was revealed that seven people on the Sex Offender Registry listed the IRC as their address.
The number of those using the IRC as their address is now six, but it appears to be illegal for a registered sex offender to use a place where they don’t live as their address. The IRC is a daytime shelter providing many services for homeless people, including a place to take a shower and wash their clothes, use computers, take classes and hang out during the day where they will be treated with kindness.
But the IRC is not a homeless shelter where people sleep or stay overnight. The only time the IRC houses people is during “white flag” nights when the temperature drops below 25 degrees and temporary facilities are set up to house the homeless. If it isn’t a white flag night, homeless people have to leave the IRC and find a place to sleep for the night.
Although the law on the “address” used for the sex offender registry appears somewhat ambiguous, the court cases on the issue have been clear that a “home address” is not where people pick up their mail or keep their stuff. It is not even a legal residence where they stay from time to time and plan to return. The home address has been defined by the courts as where the person lives.
Nobody lives at the IRC.
Kennedy said that she had heard that several people who use the IRC had listed it as their address for the Sex Offender Registry but that she had never checked herself and didn’t know who they were.
She said, “That wasn’t something established on our end.”
Kennedy said that probation and parole used the IRC as an address for people. She said that sometimes when a person has just gotten out of prison, “Probation and parole brings them directly to us.”
She said that the IRC was accepted as an address by the Department of Motor Vehicles for driver’s licenses and state issued identification and that it was an address acceptable to the Board of Elections for voting purposes. She said the Greensboro Transportation Administration also accepted the IRC as a legitimate address for bus passes.
Kennedy noted that people, when they just get out of prison, don’t have a permanent address and use the IRC as their address until they find a place to live and that probation and parole officers routinely checked on people at the IRC.
Kennedy said that as far as using the address for the Sex Offender Registry, she understood that was also done and said, “It has existed in that way for as long as I can remember.”
The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for keeping the Sex Offender Registry. When asked about the legality of people listing the IRC, which is not a residential facility, as an address, Sheriff BJ Barnes said, “Now that it has been brought to our attention, we’re looking into it.” He said an officer was going to check with the IRC to investigate when and how often it housed people and if there were anything like a daycare nearby that would make it an unacceptable location.
Barnes added that although keeping the Sex Offender Registry was a law enforcement function, it was not funded. He said he had requested additional officers to keep up with the registered sex offenders in the county but that he had not received any additional personnel, so he had one officer in charge of the entire county.
Along with using the address where they live, sex offenders are required to notify the Sheriff’s Department within 10 days if their place of residence changes.
In State v. Worley, the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision states, “the sex offender registration statutes operate on the premise that everyone does, at all times, have an ‘address’ of some sort, even if it is a homeless shelter, a location under a bridge or some similar place.”
The North Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Abshire states, “address to mean a mailing address alone is insufficient for the registration program.” And, “mere physical presence at a location is not the same as establishing a residence. Determining that a place is a person’s residence suggests that certain activities of life occur at the particular location.”
It also states, “Thus, a sex offender’s address indicates his or her residence, meaning the actual place of abode where he or she lives.”
In the Abshire case, a woman had moved in with her boyfriend and then because of problems in the relationship had moved home with her parents for about six weeks to two months. She testified that she had planned to move back in with her boyfriend, still had belongings at his house and occasionally spent the night there. None of that was found sufficient for her to continue to list her boyfriend’s house as her address on the Sex Offender Registry. She was found guilty of not notifying the Sheriff’s Department of a change of address when she went to live at her parents’ house.
Since no one actually lives at the IRC, it doesn’t seem that the IRC could qualify as an address for the sex offender registry.
Kennedy was clear that the IRC had nothing to do with people listing the IRC as their address on the sex offender registry.
The IRC is an independent nonprofit agency but is funded by the City of Greensboro.