Sellwood residents protest sex offender treatment clinic


by KGW Staff

Posted on November 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM

PORTLAND -- Some homeowners in Southeast Portland's Sellwood neighborhood are worried about a sex offender clinic that opened up just blocks from a Boys and Girls Club.

The center's location is also one block from the Sellwood Montessori School.

There is no sign out front and the windows are tinted dark. Neighbors said they had no forewarning that this type of facility would be opening there.

"That's kind of like having lambs next to a pack of hungry wolves. We don't feel very comfortable with it," explained Joe Holliman with Sellwood Montessori.

Whole Systems Counseling treats nearly 140 sex offenders but none of the clients have limitations regarding being around schools, according to the company's director Johneen Manno.

"The communities jumped to 'that everyone is a child molester or pedophile and they jump  out of bushes.' That is just not the case, we don't have any client who does that," Manno said Monday evening.

She went to a community meeting at al gelato shop called by neighbors to discuss the issue. She said outside that she was asked to leave.

"I do think if they had sat down early on in good faith we probably could have found a different place in the neighborhood," said neighbor Scott Farris, "but I don't think anyone would have agreed to this."

State records show that in December, the counseling center moved from Oregon City to Southeast Portland.  Manno said she reached out to the neighborhood association and local businesses.

Since that time, and especially last weekend, word spread among many neighbors via social media exactly what went on in the building, prompting shock.

One told KGW that residents can't change the siding on a garage without formally notifying neighbors, yet a sex offender clinic doesn't have to announce its plans.

Manno told KGW off camera that she would be amenable to moving the clinic, but is just into a five-year lease. Neighbors at the meeting said they would take steps to help her break the lease.