Grand Rapids Homeless Sex Offenders File Suit Seeking Shelter

According to the Grand Rapids Press, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four homeless individuals with criminal convictions for minor sex offenses to allow them to stay in homeless shelters. The suit was filed in the Ingham County Circuit Court before the State asked to move it to the U.S. District Court. The case was prompted after a homeless man was found frozen to death in a salvage yard after being turned away from an emergency shelter. The man, Thomas Pauli, was listed on the sex crimes registry and as a result, was banned from staying in a shelter because it was located within a school zone.

The recent matter seeks an injunction preventing prosecution for those homeless sex offenders who need “a safe place to stay at night.” The case seeks to clarify whether homeless sex offenders on the registry can have access to emergency shelter. Earlier this year, the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that homeless sex offenders did not have to place their names on the sex crimes registry, based in part on the fact that being homeless necessarily means that these individuals have no permanent residence and thus cannot provide a home address.

In Grand Rapids, all emergency shelters are located within school zones and hence, when emergency shelter is necessary, homeless sex offenders are left with the choice of sleeping on the streets and confronting possible life threatening situations such as rape, assault and frigid temperatures or staying in a facility and facing possible prosecution from the State. It places those who are already down on their luck, many with minor convictions, in a no win situation. As the lawsuit states, the ban on staying in a shelter constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”


It’s crucial for anyone facing charges of a Michigan sex crime to seek the advice of an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately. Even convictions of minor charges may result in the requirement of placing your name on the sex crimes registry which may significantly impact on where you live, where you go to school and even where you work. For more information or if you or a loved one is facing charges for sex crimes, please contact Grabel & Grabel, Michigan’s premier sex crimes defense firm.