Sex Offender Success Story

Normal life after living under the bridge

We'll call him Charlie. That's not his real name, but Charlie has a real job driving a van, delivering packages, being responsible. Pretty good for a convicted sex offender who spent six months living in the infamous camp under the Julia Tuttle causeway.

"Life is much better now," Charlie says. "Able to get a job, enjoy myself, my family, not worry about sleeping outside anymore."

Charlie is one of  the success stories. The Homeless Trust has placed every one of the nearly 100 former bridge residents into apartments, paying up to six months of each person's rent, but only about a third of them, like Charlie, have taken advantage of job training and placement services.

"The program is an excellent program, they do their best to set you up with a job, set you up with a place to stay," Charlie told us.

"We don't run a welfare program, that's not what the Homeless Trust is," said Ron Book, volunteer director of the Trust. "Our programs are about providing services to get people off the streets, to help them find employment, to make them self-sustained. But you can't solve everybody's problems."

Book has led the effort to resettle the sex offenders into apartments that meet the laws restricting where they can live.

"I think we've done the best we could, " Book says. "I think the community's done the best it could. Look, there's no sympathy out there for predators, offenders and pedophiles, I certainly don't have any."

The bridge area is fenced off,  the colony of sex offenders which once existed there is just a memory. Charlie told us his time there was like a nightmare.

"It was rough," the father of three said. "As a family guy, you don't want your family down there but then again you want to be with them and it was just hard."

So what happens when the assistance money to pay leases runs out? Pointing out that it's cheaper to prevent someone from becoming homeless than it is to get them off the streets, the Homeless Trust will still help the offenders, like Charlie, who are working. The rest are on their own.

"I'll tell you what's not gonna happen, they're not going back to the Julia Tuttle Causeway," Book said.

Charlie's not looking back. He knows he's lucky to have a second chance.

"I am blessed with everything," he says.

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