Plans for sex offender housing in Tenino face community backlash

An emotional grassroots campaign against housing top-level sex offenders may be paying off in Thurston County.

Organizers held a standing-room only hearing over the proposed treatment facility near Tenino, where county commissioners are now looking at possible legal actions to stop any transfer.

Commissioners will be going to the county attorney with the concerns raised at the hearing about home and security issues.

Residents, a state lawmaker and even the county sheriff have criticized the facility.

The space was being set up to hold Department of Social and Health Services clients, including Level 3 sex offenders—the so-called "worst of the worst"—being moved from the state’s secure treatment facility on McNeil Island.

Hundreds of people have signed an online petition against the program—set to be administered by Supreme Living, LLC. Dozens showed up in person to testify against it.

"My husband and I actually were the original owners of the home that [Supreme Living] purchased," said Tenino resident Jennifer Wienes. "[They] told us that they were going to be fostering children… Later found out that their intent was not to do that."

"It makes me feel uneasy, I am home alone for 24 hours every third day, I don’t have the adequate resources when there’s an event of an emergency, our fire department just recently closed down the road," said resident Sarah Fox. "Knowing that five Level 3 sex offenders from McNeil Island are going to be in my backyard, scares me to death."

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The sheriff wrote on Facebook he would want serious upgrades at the facility before it was allowed to operate, including fencing and armed guards.

For its part, Supreme Living has been trying to work with the community to address concerns, and held its own public hearing last week.