Sex offenders at a popular Huntsville homeless camp find it difficult to relocate

Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 8:57 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - One week ago, Huntsville City and non-profit leaders announced that people living in a large homeless camp known as “tent city” would have to move.

It was located on Mill Street, and was inside of the Church Street construction zone.

We went to the location today and there are still a lot of tents, clothes, and personal items scattered all around the camp, where dozens of people used to live.

We’re told everyone has moved, but when it comes to sex offenders, several of them say they didn’t have many options.

They came to us, asking to be interviewed.

“All of these organizations that have come out here don’t help sex offenders. They do not help sex offenders. They have came out here many times and I’ve offered to help the folks to get them and housing. All except for sex offenders because there is no help for housing for sex offenders in the state that they can get us into,” said homeless sex offender Lawrence Azbell.

Several non-profits offered the residents of tent-city shelter and help, including food, showers, and places to sleep. However, those non-profits can’t offer shelter to sex offenders because of safety rules and laws.

“It’s against the violation of the Alabama sex offender registry requirements. It requires you to be 2000 feet away from any school or day care or any place where children congregate,” said Azbell.

Organizations like the Huntsville Downtown Rescue Mission, allow families to spend the night in their facility, which means sex offenders can’t.

“We have women and children here and there are rules. We have those rules and there are also legal rules for why a sex offender cannot be in a certain amount of distance from children,” said CEO Keith Overholt.

All of the sex offenders who used to live at the Mill Street tent camp have been moved to a different tent camp to abide by the rules.

People who openly admit to be a sex offender like Lawrence Azbell say the conditions are awful.

“Living in sub-human conditions where there’s rats as big as cats, living in the filth and the dirt. I can’t even get a bath, a shower or get a good night sleep because I’m living in a piece of cloth,” said Azbell.

The Downtown Rescue Mission CEO says he’s had early discussions about trying to open up a facility somewhere else for sex offenders to get them out of the elements.

City leaders tell WAFF, once construction at the Church Street location is finished, some of the residents will be able to return.

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