City councilman tours homeless sex offender camp

By Jim Piggott, General assignment reporter, jpiggott@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 07 2014 03:26:51 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 07 2014 04:04:08 PM EDT

Sex offenders living in tents across from The Courts Village on West Beaver Street.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A city councilman on Monday toured a site in his district where at least 13 registered sexual offenders and predators are living -- some in tents.

On Friday, Channel 4 showed the facility, nicknamed Camp Convict, on Beaver Street where more than a dozen offenders are living after being released from prison.

If they can't afford the rent, they live in tents across the street.

They say they can't afford decent housing and, because of their convictions, are limited to where they can live.

City Councilman Warren Jones agrees that it's a tough situation.  While he has not had any complaints about the camp, he says safety for people in his district is important and understands the concern.

"I think we all would agree it's not suitable," Jones says. "Hopefully we can reach out to the Homeless Coalition to see if there's a way we could find decent, safe, sanitary housing as opposed to living in the cold and the open like this in tents."

The Florida Department of Corrections and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office say it's a place where authorities can keep an eye on those on probation and those who must register with them because of their sexual offenses.  The offenders are within state guidelines to live in a camp.

"If they meet all those requirements and they have the owner's permission, then I think this is legal. But it's unfortunate that one has to live in this kind of conditions," Jones says.

The Homeless Coalition says there is a group that can handle situations like this and they're going to begin investigating.

Raymond Gamble, a private citizen who spent some time homeless and in trouble with the law, is trying to help.

Gamble is not a sexual offender, but has served time in jail and still has to keep in touch with police. He says he knows how hard it could be for those living here.

"You just got a look ahead," Gamble say. "I just got out of jail and I never looked back. Changed my life, you know what I mean?"

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