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West Haven Residents Fight Sex Offender Facility Expansion

By Anna Deem in News on Dec 6, 2009 10:00PM

Upon learning that St. Leonard's House--in the 2100 block of West Warren--provides transitional housing for ex-offenders (including convicted rapist, Julius Anderson), Veronica Zepeda and other nearby residents decided to fight back. Last week, they persuaded Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) to put a hold on St. Leonard's plans to buy two city lots to expand its campus. On Wednesday, a lawyer for the two women that Anderson allegedly raped when he walked out of the center earlier this year, filed suit against St. Leonard's and the State of Illinois, arguing that officials should have done more to prevent Anderson's escape.

Fioretti told the Chicago Sun-Times that although St. Leonard's has done a "great job on housing and training of ex-offenders" in the past, the residents of West Haven raised some valid concerns. One of which is that state law requires that any facility housing sex offenders must annually notify neighbors who live within 500 feet that sex offenders live nearby. Zepeda claims that St. Leonard's never did that. Sex offenders are also not allowed to live within 500 feet of a school, under state law. The Chicago Public Schools' Suder School is right across the street at 2022 W. Washington.

Last week at a meeting arranged by Fioretti's office, St. Leonard's officials told neighbors they would stop taking in sex offenders. "We respect the fact that they're there,'' said Zepeda to the Sun-Times. "We understand their mission. We just do not believe this expansion should happen."