Neighborhood worried about new halfway house nearby

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by HAYLEY GUENTHNER & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on April 21, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 23 at 8:14 AM

SPOKANE, Wash.--Residents in one North Spokane neighborhood said they were outraged over a new halfway house that popped up.    

The home in question is near N. Drumheller Street and W. Decatur Avenue. That is within a mile radius of three elementary schools. Westview Elementary is only two blocks away.

Neighbors living near the home said they were terrified. Those who run the halfway home said there was no reason to be scared.

Doug Starkey said his two sons were too nervous to play outside because of the family’s new neighbors.

“My little sixth grader is just petrified. He doesn't even want to sleep in his own room. He wants to sleep with us. He's just afraid,” said Starkey.

Starkey said he feared the halfway house had done irreversible damage to his son’s sense of security. It had only been a week on Monday since six convicted felons moved in.

“We used to be able to leave him at home when we went to the grocery store with his brother, now he says, ‘dad I don’t want to stay at home anymore,’” said Starkey. “His dream of having a safe home is no longer. That's really hard.”

The executive director of the halfway house, Terri Mayer, said it certainly does not need to be a terrifying experience.

“There's no need to be afraid. The people we move in there are pre-screened. They have children. They have families, they aren't going to hurt anyone. There are no sex offenders,” said Mayer.

Mayer said she was caught off guard by the neighborhood outrage.

Neighbors said they were upset that they were not notified of the house.

“We've never had to notify anyone before,” said Mayer.

Mayer said it was important for her new neighbors to know that the background of the residents are scrutinized before they are allowed in.

KREM 2 News asked Mayer if any of the six convicted felons had been convicted of a violent crime.

“Not a violent crime that would hurt a child. No violent crimes,” said Mayer. “Well someone violated a restraining order...I guess it depends how you look at it.”

Mayer added that those living in the halfway house had paid their debt to society and had done their time.

Mayer The house is drug and alcohol free and frequently checked by the Department of Corrections.

“These people just want a chance. If they aren't living here, they'd be under a bridge somewhere,” said Mayer.

That was something Starkey understood but he stood firm that two blocks from a school was simply inappropriate.

“These guys have to go somewhere...but our residential neighborhoods shouldn't be the first step immediately following a prison release,” said Starkey.

City of Spokane leaders launched an investigation in April to make sure all of the codes and regulations were being followed by the home. Codes officers will investigate if there are any violations of codes or regulations.

There will be a meeting at C.O.P.S. Northwest located by the RiteAid in the Shadle Shopping Center on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is for the public to discuss the issue further.

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