Residents Concerned about Proposed Sex Offender Hurricane Shelter

The word is spreading and folks are hearing about plans to provide an evacuation shelter for sex offenders in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish. A new state law requires that registered sex offenders are housed apart from everyone else in evacuations. WAFB's Paul Gates says he's talked with folks who live around the site near Zachary and Baker, and they're not happy.

The National Guard is already at work setting up what could be a tent city for sex offenders that will be their home as long as needed. Just off of US-61, north of the parish landfill, you'll find an isolated area of 1800 acres, owned by Louisiana State Police which serves as the state's Joint Emergency Services Training Center. Small yellow flags and some equipment already on-site mark where temporary shelters will be erected for registered sex offenders who choose to come here.

A new state law effective in August requires that registered sex offenders must be segregated from other evacuee populations. Up to 300 sex offenders may live at this shelter in temporary air conditioned structures with portable toilets and showers. Of course, the facility is adults only, and male and female sex offenders will be housed separately.

Some area residents living within miles of here are hearing about this and don't like it.

"Yes, I oppose," says Faye Ensenet, a Baker resident. "We don't need any more people that we have to be concerned about like that. I mean, the safety of children, the safety of people in the community. We've got enough people here that's displaced."

The state legislature's law on this matter had to be carried out by the Department of Social Services, which picked this spot hoping they were being aware of and sensitive to people feelings.

"We picked a site as remote as possible," explains DSS Spokeswoman Cleo Joffrion Allen. "1,800 acres, Louisiana State Police is planning a security system, but we have to remember these individuals are free citizens who walk amongst us, even today."

Security here keeps people out, but it will not keep the registered sex offenders in. They are free citizens who, if they come here for shelter, may then come and go as they please.

The sex offender site is to be ready for occupancy by September 15. The plan is to dismantle the temporary structures at the end of each hurricane season and set them up at the start of new hurricane seasons to come.

Reporter: Paul Gates pgates@wafb.com