Ex-offender helps others find safe place to live
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Because of restrictions over where sexual offenders and predators can live and the stigma of their crime, it's often difficult for both men and women convicted of a sex crime to find housing.
Donald Bell is a convicted sexual offender himself, but he now makes a living finding places for others can live. While he's been out of prison for some time., he knows what's involved in trying to find a place to live that is within the guidelines set by the courts for sexual offenders and predators.
Bell said the process starts five or six months before a felon gets out, since the offender has to have an address before they can be released.
Bell works for Southeast New Start transition program, which buys residential property in industrial neighborhoods, away from schools and parks. They are contacted by the offender or the probation office to help find a safe and legal place for these people to live.
There are several of the houses in Jacksonville which house 45 to 55 men. Bell agreed to talk with us if we did not identify the locations.
"When we find a house, usually what I do is go around and knock on doors and tell them we are getting ready to open a place," Bell said.
Bell said it takes about a year to buy properties that qualify. As for the money they make, Bell says a lot goes back they make into the houses.
Bell said he is now getting calls to house women offenders. They have not done that yet, but they are considering buying a house just for women.
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