With Polar Vortex Comes a Vortex of Shelter-Based Predator Panic

America is in the midst of a wave of bitter cold, and possibly the coldest surge of arctic air in decades this week. Just how cold is it? Today’s USA Today headline reads, “Yes, Chicago will be colder than Antarctica, Alaska and the North Pole on Wednesday.” The “polar vortex” has only recently been used as a media buzzword (the term has been used for decades by meteorologists), but already invokes a wave of panic concerning bitter cold temperatures. Local news broadcasts in the areas affected by the “polar vortex” are filled with stories of announcements of school and business closings and openings of emergency shelters for the homeless or those without adequate heat in their homes.

However, with many of these announcements come the peculiar phrase “sex offender background checks.” The Morning Journal (Loraine, OH) reports the Neighborhood Alliance Haven Center, 1536 E. 30th St. in Lorain will reject SOs. Tonight’s low for Loraine is -1. KY3 (Springfield MO) reports the Salvation Army will conduct “sex offender background checks.” Tonight’s low for Springfield is 5. Just as registrants fleeing hurricanes are routinely denied shelter in coastal states, registered persons have faced rejection from emergency shelters during this spate of bitter cold temperatures.

It has been a full decade almost to the day since Thomas Pauli’s death made headlines across the USA. Pauli froze to death on January 26, 2009 in Grand Rapids MI; the low for that night was -3. He tried to seek shelter that night but was denied because the shelter was too close to a school (which was shut down due to the inclement weather). Pauli was found in a parking lot next to a recycling factory. State Senator Nancy Cassis, a supporter of Michigan’s sex offender laws, said the sex offender residency laws were sound but that it appeared the social safety net failed to protect Pauli. “What other options did they give him?” she asked. “Were police contacted? How about the Salvation Army? Or soup kitchens, there’s plenty of them. What about synagogue and churches? I view them all as part of the safety net.” Senator Cassis was oblivious to the fact that shelters routinely deny services to registered persons largely due to the law she supported. Even without the law, organizations like the Salvation Army routinely discriminate against registered persons.

Sadly, a full decade after this tragedy, it is painfully obvious we never learned from his lesson.

The bitter cold may have already claimed one homeless registrant in Springfield even before dipping into the single digits—the body of Andrew M. Rodiger was found by homeless folks seeking a campsite last week. Officials believe Rodiger died from hyperthermia; lows in Springfield dipped into the teens last week. In Greenfield MA, the body of Clayton Aaron Wheeler was found by authorities on Monday the 21st; while the official cause of death hasn’t been determined, weather likely played a role in his death. The low for Greenfield MA on January 21 was 0.

Interestingly, Wheeler was offered shelter and other services, but he rejected it, according to the Greenfield Reporter. It was obvious Wheeler had no faith in people claiming to want to help him. Who can blame him? Some Greenfield residents expressed outrage that a vigil was held in Wheeler’s honor. George Ballentine, an advocate for the homeless, said recently Wheeler told him he feels like “just another inmate number.” Ballentine said of Wheeler’s registrant status, “They get a label and people lose compassion for the person’s humanity.”

Hypothermia is not a particularly painful yet a particularly cruel way to die. Most people aren’t even aware they are dying of it because mental confusion is a primary symptom of extreme hypothermia. Stories of hypothermia survivors have described the feeling of their life flashing before their eyes, having visions of their life gone by. It causes the brain to act irrationally; people in the final stages may shed their clothes, for example. It is as if they are prepared to die. Thomas Pauli’s death was described as if he had embraced his own death. If that is true, I believe it was the not the result of hypothermia, but from the disease that is the public registry. Wheeler chose to take his chances with death than to accept assistance because of the effect of his registry status. This action is not surprising – in a survey conducted by OnceFallen of 100 registrants in 2018, a fourth of respondents stated they would take their chances with an approaching disaster rather than go to a segregated shelter.

The Greenfield MA City Council will hold a meeting on Thursday, January 31 at 7pm at the Greenfield High School. State Senator Jo Comerford, (D-Northampton) and State Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru) will be there. The Greenfield City Council will be there. Homeless advocates will be there. Of course, angry, misinformed, concerned citizens will be there. It is unlikely registered persons would attend given the venue. However, our voices must not be silenced. If we are going to prevent the deaths of more registered persons by extreme weather, it is our duty to confront the cruelty of laws and business practices designed to prevent us from seeking shelter just to survive a disaster. Thomas Pauli never had a voice. This bitter cold and the moral panic accompanying it should remind us why we should use ours.

9 comments for “With Polar Vortex Comes a Vortex of Shelter-Based Predator Panic

  1. Will Bassler
    January 29, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Another piece of proof that the registry is nothing more then an unjustifiable hit list. How many registered people will die because of this extreme cold rather directly or indirectly. And it is all based on the false assumption that there is a high probability that these people will reoffend again and that the public should know about it. The empirical evidence shows that the overall re-offense rate for people on the registry is less than 1% so there is really no justification for the law nor is there any justification that these people should have their privacy violated by public information other countries are recognizing the right to be forgotten in this highly electronic world. It’s about time the United States started remembering that our republics Constitution is based on individual rights not the right of the majority or the rich and powerful.

    If one registered citizen dies because of this extreme cold weather with them being denied access to facilities that other citizens have access to, shelters, warming stations or what ever. I hope that the family of that registered citizen sues the United States government and any agency that denied them shelter in a wrongful death law suit.

  2. Gini
    January 30, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    I am amazed at how it can be considered cruel and inhumane to leave an animal outside in foul weather yet it is perfectly acceptable and in some cases even encouraged to leave registered citizens out to die. Registered citizens are humans, tell me, when and why are they treated as less than animals, it makes no sense.

    • MARK S.
      January 30, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      In my view Gini, we live in a world of hate, unforgiveness, and revenge. Plus of course add to that of the media floods (cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.), over any offender, and the very stupid, inane statements by the SCOTUS. with regard to sexual recidivism. Lest I forget the “sheeple” of America get lied to repeatedly, and digest it as nourishment for their souls. And the final ingredient in my opinion is self-righteousness. Am I cynical? Maybe, Is the above I have posted an indicator of the ubiquitous mental illness that prevails in our society?

    • Grandson of John Baptist
      January 30, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      Animal need > human’s need. Some humans prefer animals to humans.
      Machine need > human’s need. Some humans prefer machine when meeting needs.
      Some machines provide shelter to some politically. There are readily apparent uses for databases in particular.
      The need for SORNA databases was advertised As necessary to inform the people about known bad Guys it had collateral implications for gov use. Electronic Frontier Foundation formed immediately precisely because this technology has to impact liberty. Humans are now living indentured to the state database and its maintenance.
      The machine’s maintenance is by proxy, via agent’s keystrokes. However, upon direct inspection of the regime the proxy itself impedes efficacy and efficiency EACH.

      That particular form “by proxy” of implementation by administration denotes underlying intent contrary to smaller government. It is clear databases have provided economic efficiency in the market reducing the need for human in production. Those effects fall in the positive journal column for firms, but government use of databases has had the inverse impact on the size of government – more humans needed to maintain the machines, most paid, registrants forced to pay. Pay to cut one’s own liberty interest. Wisconsin, as All states, did just that and accepted to decrease in liberty as “necessary” for social compact continuation. I argue it has had the opposite effect.

      Simply put. If one opts to enlist manifest (ex post law)evil to fight manifest (child molestation\ rape) evil one opts for fire to fight fire. The problem with that approach is scorched earth inevitably follows. And this will come to pass.

  3. Kay T
    January 30, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    The news says that right now – Jan 29, 2019 at 5:00 PM, it is colder in Chicago than anyplace on earth right now and if anyone needs shelter to call 311 and that no one will be turned away.

    I’m looking to the reports, wondering if it’s true.

    • Tim
      January 31, 2019 at 1:17 am

      Kay T,
      I’m North of Chicago 1 hr .by freeway. Jan 31, 3 am -22.

  4. LJ
    January 31, 2019 at 12:27 am

    They scare the public, shun us from society, chase us from our homes and neighborhoods with the internet registry and community notification as well as compliance checks. Every time I get settled I am forced to move. I spend time searching for a place to live less insane. What happens? They pass the Adam Walsh Act. Not only pass it, hut the strictest version. There’s nowhere to go. It’s a slow and torturous death sentence. If you aren’t reincarcerated over some new law that makes it a crime for you to live somewhere or walk somewhere, it’s some vigilante on a rampage and stirring up a mob to get the scary monster. Ya know, get the torch and pitchfork, call the sheriff and have em hang what’s left! If a person doesn’t suffer one of those two dates, they are possibly homeless and freezing, banned from basic services. If a person managed to navigate any and all of that, gets off parole, endures the harassment from the public and law enforcement, the repeated registration renewals, finds a home and makes a good place for themselves, the burden of the whole ordeal strips them of their will to go on at some point and they find a way to end their own life. No one cares. Only us. We are despised. See this article
    Note the
    where even the attorney against the adoption
    of the new Nevada laws states
    we are despised and that isn’t going to change.


    I’d like to believe that will change like my friend WillB. What I see is more and more doubling down and things getting worse and worse. Each year I endure more and more suffering from laws and a public in chaotic outrage. An addiction to the next thing to hate and destroy runs rampid. Every time I look at a state to consider moving to, it is no better or may even worse than where I am now. It wears on my heart, mind and soul. I am tired, I am weary. Nobody gives a rats ass save for those experiencing their own suffering for the same Scarlet letter.

    • AC Chau
      March 15, 2019 at 8:59 am


      You are scaring the living Erebus out of me. Please don’t tell me you plan on ending your own life. The fact that you even mention hopeless despair concerns me what you will do to yourself.

      Hey, if Jewish people from Nazi Germany had your defeatist view on life, how many more dead victims from that time period do you think we’ll have? If Anne Frank, a 13-year-old girl, had so much as hope for her own future, you can have the same for yours.

      Now, as far as your other sentiment on “worsening states”: Not every state is “getting worse than [your] own”. My state, California, has, due to the victories of power civils attorny Janice Bellucci, re-gained some rather humane laws against registrants; and their families.

      I hope you know that there are still many people out there who care immensely for you. You’re reading the comment of one right now.

  5. kayt
    February 1, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Tim (and others),

    One hour north of Chicago has to be serious! I was out tonight, I live just East of NYC and my face was frozen beyond belief!

    I thought of the people who might be left out in the cold and I thought of the Jews in Germany/Hitler’s captives in those train cars, they died of heat in the summer and froze in the winter. The SS put people outside in water in the dead of winter with nothing on to torture them and terrorize the rest of the jews into compliance. It’s true that some people walking the face of this earth are devils and they do not care about humans.

    When someone pushes a human being out in the cold to freeze, they aren’t human.

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