Organizers for Washington State for Public Safety — a group recently formed in opposition to the placement and operation of shared housing for Level 3 sex offenders on Viking Way in Poulsbo — recently testified before the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee in Olympia, in favor of two bills sponsored by Senator Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma.
Senate Bills 5038 and 5040 seek to limit the placement of institutionalized individuals in adult family homes and ensure the equitable geographic distribution of such individuals as well. Organizers with WSPS have stated that the group intends to pursue legal action in hopes of shuttering the Viking Way Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA) group home. The residence is being operated by WestSound Support Services, under contract through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and currently houses four of the high-risk sex offenders.
Shane Seaman, an attorney with Cross Sound Law Group, is providing legal counsel for WSPS as they work to understand the manner by which the Viking Way LRA came to be. For all intents and purposes, Seaman says, the Viking Way house is effectively a Secure Community Transition Facility, even if it is not officially classified as such by DSHS.
“You have the statutory scheme that clearly defines a Secure Community Transition Facility and it has certain requirements and guidelines,” Seaman said. By not defining the Viking Way residence as a Secure Community Transition Facility, DSHS was able to avoid having to conduct a more thorough notification process.
During a December community meeting to address the presence of the Viking Way LRA, one of the chief complaints from those in attendance was a lack of prior notification during the siting process — in which neither county commissioners nor officials from the Kitsap County Department of Community Development were made aware. At a Jan. 8 community meeting, Detective Eric Adams with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office stated that a glitch in a third party notification system resulted in a large number of nearby residents never receiving adequate notice ahead of the first offender moving into the residence. As for the lack of notification on DSHS’ behalf, Seaman suggests this was intentional.
“It appears they are really trying to circumvent and just ignore the idea that’s in the statutory scheme of these Secure Community Transition Facilities.” Seaman said. “It’s not an adult family home, and our current code allows Adult Family Homes in residential neighborhoods with a conditional use permit.”
“[The residence] has all the same requirements of security, staffing and everything else, and meets the definition of a Secure Community Transition Facility,” Seaman said. “It’s more like a private jail.”
Washington State for Public Safety recently received 501(c)(4) status, something that organizer Pamela Benson says will allow the group to pursue continued lobbying efforts in Olympia. Additionally, WSPS has also started a GoFundMe page in order to assist with the anticipated legal costs of a court battle.
WSPS will be holding a public, community meeting Saturday morning at 9:30 in the Poulsbo Fire Department’s Station 77.
Nick Twietmeyer is the interim editor for the North Kitsap Herald. Nick can be reached at email@example.com.