JOHN CURLEY AND SHARI ELLIKER
WA Rep. hopes to eradicate sex offender housing in Enumclaw
Supreme Living is no longer pursuing its plans to create transitional housing for sex offenders in Tenino.
Residents and community members protested the proposition for weeks due to the risk factors of the home being near a playground, a bus stop, and a lake frequented by neighbors.
Supreme Living made the decision earlier this week, citing costs and land use requirements as its reasons.
Home for violent sex offenders in Tenino shuts down
“Enumclaw and the folks you represent there, do you think they’ll have the same victory?” John Curley asked State Rep. Drew Stokesbary (31st District – which encompasses Enumclaw) on The John and Shari Show.
“I sure hope so,” answered Rep. Stokesbary. “They are a really dedicated bunch that cares a lot and are rightfully very, very concerned. And I know it’s a bit of a self-interested argument to make, but I’m sure hopeful that the work that I’m doing in the Legislature along with my seatmate, Representative Eric Robertson, and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, and the pressure we’re putting on the department will really help at the end of the day.”
Washington currently has 25 less restrictive alternative facilities (LRA) within the state. The LRA in Enumclaw falls under the option of “independent housing,” which means sexually violent predators would either live with their families, be placed in an apartment, or live in a group home.
According to Special Commitment Center CEO Keith Devos, independent homes have minimal to no staffing. The Special Commitment Center is a total confinement facility on McNeil Island in Pierce County for sexually violent predators.
Under Senate Bill 5163, the state created a “fair share” principle for housing in an effort to ensure one county would not absorb a disproportionate amount of sex offenders.
“Without the fair share principle, the courts or the department could potentially place all of these folks just within a few miles from the island on the mainland, right there in West Pierce County,” Stokesbary said. “That would kind of be the cheapest because it involves the least amount of transportation costs and things like that. So I think the fear was, without something like the fair share rule, all of these folks will get dumped in one really small area centered around Pierce County.”
Level 3 sex offender Stevan Knapp currently resides in independent housing in Enumclaw. He was convicted of violent sex crimes in 1983 and has been civilly committed since 1999.
Tenino residents expressed their disbelief and outrage throughout February after a Jan. 29 webinar hosted by state officials pointed out the proposed LRA was next to a children’s playground.
Why sexually violent predators are being housed in local communities
“It was a really good coordinated effort of the folks down there,” Stokesbary said. “I think it was just the absolute waterfall of outpouring of people opposed to the project that really made the folks who are going to run this facility nervous and uncomfortable. Who wants to run a business where every single person in the town can’t stand you and doesn’t want you to have your business there?”
But Stokesbary didn’t dismiss Supreme Living’s official reasons either, citing the county realized having this home in that area was going to create a number of code violations. And the cost to get that facility into compliance with county codes and ordinances made this endeavor unfeasible.
“It’s a really big step down from McNeil Island to a house out in the middle of nowhere in Tenino or Enumclaw with no security, no cameras, no fencing,” Stokesbary said. “Surely there can exist some sort of middle ground. There can be something in the middle that is slightly less restrictive than McNeil Island, but more restrictive than nothing at all.”
- Tune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.