Exodus House neighbors concernedA switch in policy to accommodate residents of a halfway house in the town of Hudson has neighbors concerned.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
A switch in policy to accommodate residents of a halfway house in the town of Hudson has neighbors concerned.
Nearby residents were under the impression that the men at Exodus House would be escorted to and from work. But with jobs hard to find and employment opportunities spread far and wide and at odd times, they have been allowed to drive or ride bikes to work.
Seeing Exodus House men apparently on their own raised concern among families in the neighborhood and a meeting was held Sept. 16 to clear the air.
“The people aren’t happy,” said Dave Ostby, the liaison between Exodus House and the Hudson Town Board. “They don’t like the fact that the residents (of Exodus House) are allowed to go to and from work in their cars and on bicycles.”
Ostby said it was a difficult situation because state law allows a halfway house to be established anywhere, but the local zoning ordinances can place conditions on the residence. One of the conditions was that the residents would be escorted to and from work.
St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead, who is a member of the Exodus House board of advisors, said, “I think it was a lack of communication between the management of Exodus House and the community,” Hillstead said. “When the policy changed at Exodus House to allow the residents to drive their cars or ride their bikes to and from work, it would have been better if it was discussed with the board.”
“The whole issue centered on a failure to communicate. (Exodus House) Manager Bruce Clendenen had the right to make the decision,” the sheriff said.
“I am in the process of getting the names of the neighbors from the town board so I can meet with them,” said Clendenen. “Maybe if they got to know our guys they would find out they are not dangerous people.”
The change in policy started with a resident who was on work release from the jail and had a job in St. Paul. The decision was made to let him drive to work.
“Our residents work at unusual times,” Clendenen said. “Some go to work early in the morning and some work the graveyard shift.”
The odd hours make it nearly impossible to provide transportation to and from the job for everybody, and employment is difficult to find under current economic conditions.
“We have procedures in place to check on them - to make sure they are going to work and not driving around,” Clendenen said.
The neighbors’ concerns were presented at a special meeting of the Advisory Committee of Exodus House Sept. 16. The results of the meeting were to be presented to the Hudson Town Board last Tuesday and another meeting of the advisory board is set for Oct. 13 at the house.
The 12-bed facility is a halfway house that serves adult males. It is owned by Lutheran Social Services and operates under a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Residents are felons with drug or alcohol addictions who come to Exodus House from incarceration.
The program doesn’t accept sex offenders or those who have committed violent crimes, said Clendenen.
Exodus House has been in operation for about 18 months. It opened March 20, 2008.