KC warns against meals to homeless sex offenders near schools

Kansas City has asked charitable groups not to feed the homeless close to parks or schools because that might mean violating a state law restricting where sex offenders can be.

A situation arose about a month ago, when police discovered a homeless camp near West 17th Street and Beardsley Road on the West Side, city spokesman Chris Hernandez said last week.

Five registered sex offenders were living in a wooded area within 500 feet of a park and 1,000 feet of two elementary schools. Under state law, for the protection of children, sex offenders are not allowed within those areas.

As part of their investigation, police determined food services were being delivered to those people within the restricted area. Under state law that addresses the issue of knowingly aiding a sex offender, providing meals to a registered sex offender within a restricted zone could be a violation.

Hernandez declined to say which schools were affected but said they were notified. He also said the camp had been dismantled and arrest warrants were issued for the sex offenders.

The city is not telling charitable groups that they can’t feed the homeless, Hernandez emphasized. But he said they should make sure not to go close to parks or schools.

“You have to be careful where you take your truck,” he said.

Amanda Waters, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Kansas and Western Missouri, one charity that goes into the community to provide food for the homeless, said that she was not aware of the camp or the incident but that her organization would heed the warning.

“We don’t want to break any laws,” she said. “Of course we will abide by that.”

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.