GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids homeless advocates say a man found dead in the snowhad been frustrated because he could not find a place to stay.
A business owner found the body of Thomas Pauli, 52, next to theold A to Z Radiator shop in the 600 block of S. Division Ave. onJan. 26. Pauli was crouched in a kneeling position. The medicalexaminer says the autopsy was inconclusive, though evidence showedPauli might have froze to death. Police say foul play was notinvolved.
Officials at Degage Ministries, a mission that offers myriadprograms for people in need, say they believe Pauli was unable toget into a shelter because he is on the Michigan Sex OffenderRegistry.
State law "prohibits convicted sex offenders from residing,working or loitering within a student safety zone which is definedas the area that lies 1,000 feet or less from school property."
That law makes the Guiding Light Mission on Grand Rapids'Division Avenue off limits because Catholic Central High School isnearby.
The Guiding Light Mission, however, is refusing to say whetherit had been forced to turn Thomas Pauli away. Shelter officialstold 24 Hour News 8 they do not keep record of the people they turnaway. But The Guiding Light did confirm that it refuses shelter totwo to three people a month because of the state law regarding sexoffenders.
Pauli was convicted in 1991 of second-degree criminal sexualconduct involving a child under the age of 13 in Grand TraverseCounty.
Lori King, a supervisor at the Degage Life Enrichment Center,said Pauli was an intelligent, quiet and gentle man who hadstruggled with alcohol and drug addiction. She also said Pauli hadgone through rehab and once told her he wanted to go back toschool.
"He voiced how hard it was for him to find housing, to findemployment, just to be accepted back into society, like he had abig X on his head and nobody was going to give him a chance," Kingtold 24 Hour News 8. "I was nauseated to think about him outsidefreezing. I knew why he was outside. Enraged is putting itlightly."
Target 8 did a special investigation into the law designed toprotect children, which unintentionally isolates convicted sexoffenders. This makes it difficult for police to track theirwhereabouts and even harder for people on the Michigan Sex OffenderRegistry to get another shot.
"They're upholding the law, but that causes such a hardship forpeople in our community. People who've done their time but stillhave the stigma attached to them," said Marge Palmerlee, executivedirector of Degage Ministries.
"There needs to be an exemption for homeless shelters or we'regoing to have more tragedies," said homeless advocate Don Tack.
It's a problem Target 8 looked into nearly three years ago. Atthe time, even the Grand Rapids Police Department was concernedthat some sex offenders were hard to find because of the law --homeless with no address.
It's as if the law keeping them from living near schoolsdefeated the other law requiring them to register so police knowwhere they are.
"We've had conversations with political folks about the need toamend this and didn't really get anywhere in the past," saidTack.
Tack thinks Pauli's death might renew interest in amending thelaw.
There are already some exemptions built into the Michigan SexOffender Registry law allowing patients in mental healthfacilities, for example, to live within those 1,000-foot schoolsafety zones as they are known.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Police say snow made roads "treacherous" Sunday and urged people to stay home if possible.