Edwardsville residents question legality of ‘halfway house’
The city of Edwardsvile is working to determine if a reported “halfway house” for criminal offenders is in violation of any laws after locating in a family-friendly neighborhood.
Several residents spoke before the Edwardsville City Council Monday, saying they don’t feel safe in their homes after learning that four convicted criminals are living in their neighborhood. City officials, who were alerted to the situation late last week, say they don’t have many answers as they are researching the case themselves.
Residents said they learned about the rehabilitation home on South Sixth Street when a cell phone app that provides alerts for addresses of registered sex offenders noted that three were living at the address, purchased in December or January by High Way Ministries LLC.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigations shows four convicted offenders live at the address: Matthew Edwards, 36, and Robert Poole, 26, both convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a child; Charles Gibson, 61, convicted of rape; and Daniel Eaton, Jr., convicted of intentional second-degree murder.
Jennifer Sands, who lives across the street, said she and several neighbors spoke with Steven Wade of Olathe, the founder of High Way Ministries, and were told that it would be a rental home.
She said since becoming aware of the situation, she and her family no longer feel safe; her daughter is afraid to leave the house alone.
“That has taken away her security in her home town, and that should not happen,” Sands said. “…. I understand that you have to live someplace, but it is not across the street from children, where there are parks in the background and a daycare around the corner.”
Residents asked if operating such a home was against city codes or if some sort of permit with the state should have been required.
Megan Mance said she operates an in-home daycare, and she has had to restrict the activities of the children she cares for to ensure their safety. She said she has to meet several state requirements in order to get a daycare permit, and she thought a home for registered offenders should have to meet similar requirements with the city.
Michael Webb said the city didn’t have many answers for residents because city staff was still conducting research. Following the meeting, he told The Chieftain that restricting such a use for a home in the city was a zoning and codes matter, as far as the city’s jurisdiction in the case, and there were potentially some state regulatory issues related to it. He said there were no special uses requiring a permit for the property as currently zoned.
He said it appears High Way Ministries works with a Kansas Department of Corrections program called Mentoring4Success, and the city has not yet gotten a response from the program director. The Kansas Secretary of State’s website shows that Wade formed High Way Ministries as a Kansas limited liability company on Nov. 21 of last year.
The state requires registered offenders to file with the county but not the city in which they reside.
Councilman Craig Crider requested that the council be updated at least weekly on the situation, as its next meeting is two weeks away.
Dave Duckers, city attorney, said when he did have an update for the council at its June 22 meeting, it was likely it would need to be discussed in executive session.
Webb added that the city also would request support from its state legislators.