Florida Sex Offender Housing Owner Faces Discrimination
Sex Offender Housing of Florida has been an up and running establishment for two decades. And, the owner, Lori Nassofer (who was actually mentioned in an News Channel 4 CBS Miami article in 2019), has seen her fair share of discrimination in the community for providing this type of housing.
When someone hears the term ‘sex offender’, there’s almost an immediate negative reaction in the minds of most folks out in the general public. So, during my interview with her, I asked Lori what made her want to own an establishment that houses these prior offenders.
“I had property in downtown Orlando that was overrun with drug dealers and prostitutes in the late 1990’s,” she said, “and I wanted to get rid of them. So, I just said to myself ‘I’m going to sell the place’ until one man told me, ‘No you should take in sex offenders. Then there will be so many badges and local law enforcement in the area that the drug dealers and prostitutes will leave.”
Lori admitted that she had her doubts that being the owner of this type of housing would not work out. “Initially,” she told me, “I turned to him and said, ‘Why would I take in sex offenders? Don’t they kill or hurt little kids?’ That’s when I started doing research and found out that there were hundreds of cases across the country where a guy would get a sex offender charge from something like peeing in public, or he might be a 19-year-old that’s dating a 17-year-old girl who was his high school sweetheart, then (in the State of Florida or California) he’ll be on the registry for life, just because her parents stop liking him for whatever reason, and decide to lock him up.”
Sex Offender Tenant Violations
I asked Lori had anything ever happened with her tenants violating any of their restrictions, and she told me a memorable story. “I have a 80-year-old tenant who forgot his monitor box,” she began. “There’s an ankle bracelet that the sex offenders wear, and they have to be near the box or put the box in their pocket. So, since he had forgotten his, they had to arrest him. They put him in Orange County jail, but the law said that he had to go to his original court of jurisdiction. So they sent him down to a jail in the Tampa area, and from there he was sent to Fort Myers jail.”
“By the time they got to court,” she continued, “the prosecutor is yelling ‘His guidelines say he should get 15 years!’, and he was only away from the box for nine minutes before we contacted him and he turned around immediately to get it. Everyone in the court was gasping, because they couldn’t believe they were going to give an 80 year old man in a wheelchair 15 years just for being away from his box for a few minutes. Who’s paying for that jail time? You and me, the taxpayers. The judge let him go, and he’s back home now, but things could have easily went the other way.”
Providing Sex Offender Housing
I wanted to know how Lori went about finding her tenants in the beginning. “Well, she replied, “I went back to the guy who originally suggested that I do this type of housing, and he told me that, basically, they’re all over the place. They have no place to live. Over about a six month period he found about a hundred guys who needed housing.”
Lori went on to explain to me how the housing-finding process usually goes when a prior offender is released from prison, and how she as a business owner had faced discrimination for being a sex offender landlord. “In each prison there’s a releasing agent who pretty much knows where the housing is for sex offenders within a certain area. Sometimes, it’s mandatory that the offender go back to the original city they were arrested in. But, depending on the vacancies, sometimes the releasing agent will inquire with me and other people providing this type of housing, asking do we have any rooms available. I have really nice clean units so I get a lot of calls.”
Lori told me about some of the business woes that have occurred from her owning this type of property. “I was buying a property in 2011,” she said, “and the bank approved me. I was on my way to the closing when the bank called me and said that they just did a background check, and found out that I have tenants who are sex offenders. They then said that that was too controversial for them, and it took me three more years to find a mortgage company who was willing to lend me money.”
Lori also told me how thousands of men across the country contribute to the homeless population because they can’t find housing as a prior sex offender. “Many times they can’t find a place because of being on the registry,” she told me. “So, what I’ve seen is they end up homeless, sleeping in the woods, etc. What I want is for these offenders is equality under the law. I don’t really care what people think about me, just as long as they don’t bother my tenants. One thing that I never got is the fact that we have a sex offender registry, but there’s no registry for drug dealers, or for murderers. This is a lot of wasted taxpayer money on this registry. Once, a guy who’d murdered his girlfriend 20 years ago in cold blood got out of prison a free man, and was sent to me to inquire about housing. I told him that this was a place for sex offenders, not murderers, but he was able to easily go right up the street and purchase a house with no problem. A sex offender could never have done that after getting out of prison. And, if they don’t have any family to live with, then more than likely they would be living out on the streets.”