WEST ENGLEWOOD — Residents and Henderson Elementary School parents will meet this weekend to discuss the latest group of ex-offenders set to move into a nearby drug rehab facility next month.
The community meeting runs from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at Henderson Elementary, 5650 S. Wolcott Ave., which is two blocks away from Southwood Interventions, 5701 S. Woods St., a substance abuse treatment center.
The Geo Group Inc., a Florida-based company that provides correctional and detention management and community re-entry services, operates Southwood Interventions.
At a Monday local school council meeting at Henderson, parents complained about the lack of communication the school has received from the facility. Assistant Principal Leila Angeles said Henderson Elementary has 347 students.
"We have no idea what kind of ex-offenders will be staying there," said Turkessa Cleaves, chairman of the school council. "As a parent I would feel more at ease if I knew this information."
David Johnson, clinical director for Southwood Interventions, declined comment.
Cleaves added that facilities that cater to ex-offenders should not be located near schools.
Some parents said while they understand drug rehab programs are needed, facilities should be located in more remote areas and not in residential neighborhoods.
"There are too many small children that walk past that place for it to be open," said Willie Sprowles, 62, who has six grandchildren at Henderson.
Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), whose ward includes the facility, said 72 ex-offenders are set to move into Southwood in November.
"All of this came to my attention by someone else and not Southwood Interventions and I have a problem with that," Foulkes said. "There was no community meeting to let residents know anything and that was not right. I am not against drug treatment centers, but what sense does it make to bring people, who are trying to get off drugs, into a community with a drug problem?"
Foulkes said she met with Walter Carlson, executive director of Southwood Interventions, and he told her all ex-offenders would wear an ankle monitor.
"The guy accused of raping a Chicago State University student was wearing an ankle bracelet, too," Foulkes said. "That goes to show that a bracelet cannot prevent a person from committing a crime."
Carlson did not return calls seeking comment.
Kilo Sims has three children at Henderson and said having the facility so close to the school makes it "extremely dangerous four our kids especially the ones who walk to school alone."
Joe Thompson, a 20-year West Englewood resident, said residents should be used to Southwood considering it has been operating in Englewood for more than 30 years.
"My biggest problem with all of this is the lack of communication by the center with the community. I cannot remember the last time that place notified us about anything let alone what kind of ex-offenders are staying there," said Thompson, who lives across the street from Southwood. "These guys suck up all the parking spaces on the block when they come to get their treatment and I don't like that at all."
He recalled an encounter he had with one ex-offender from Southwood 10 years ago.
"It was around 10 o'clock at night and I was getting in my car when I heard someone with a high-pitch voice say, 'Hey baby. Where are you going?' I turned around and it was a man," added Thompson. "Now if he is willing to say that to me, imagine what he was saying to these little kids around here. The bottom line is that it's time for this place to pack up and go elsewhere."
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