Florida Sex Offender Building Real Estate Empire
Registered sex offender Randy Young is building a small real estate empire in central Florida thanks to laws restricting where registered sex offenders may live.
Young owns seven properties and manages two dozen more that he rents to offenders. His enterprise is known as "Habitat for Sex Offenders."
"When I first got out and tried to find a place to live, it was very difficult," Young said, describing his properties as safe havens. "The first day you get out is scary. You don't know what's going to happen to you."
Florida law requires a 1,000-foot buffer between registered sex offenders and schools, day-care centers, parks, churches or libraries. Finding that kind of location - as well as a willing landlord - can be tricky.
Young, convicted of molesting a teen boy in 2003 in Volusia County, could not move in with his mother because her home was close to a church. He said he even was rejected by what he called the "crack" hotels of Orlando's Orange Blossom Trail. Then he found a trailer in the middle of nowhere.
While attending therapy session for sex offenders, Young made friends with several other men who had experienced similar problems. Some were staying at a hotel, but they were forced to move because a day care center was opening nearby.
"I let them move into my trailer," he said. "They were good tenants."
One thing led to another, and Young found himself in a growing business. He lives in his only Brevard property, another trailer in Cocoa, with roommate offenders.
He said he's pursuing more property in Brevard.
"I get calls from all over for help," he said. "Landlords call me, people in foreclosure call me and parents of children getting out of prison call me for help."
On his Web site, www.housingforsexoffenders.com, Young boasts being able to find living conditions for offenders anywhere in the state.
"Our friendly and exceptional service sets us apart from others offering roach-infested, run-down motels and overcrowded, roach-infested mobile homes," it states. "Other companies cannot meet our extensive resources and long-standing relationships with the community."
Child safety advocate Kevin Gillick publishes a newspaper devoted to the whereabouts of area sexual offenders. He said registered offenders living close together may not be a bad thing.
"I think generally it's probably easier to better supervise them when they live in one place," he said.
But Gillick also said no one should feel sorry because offenders have it tough.
"I wonder if their victims have housing," he said. "I wonder if the victims have a higher rate of homelessness than they do."
Lt. Tod Goodyear, who heads the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Sex Crimes unit, said it's not uncommon for offenders to cluster. But he said he doesn't like what Young is doing.
"He brings in people from out of the county that normally would not be settling in Brevard," Goodyear said. "I also don't like that he's making money off of this because he knows the system as a sex offender."
Young said he turns a profit, but isn't getting rich.
He said it's most important for him to be a good neighbor, and his rules are strict: no drinking; no children on the property, even for visitation rights; no smokings; shirts required when leaving the house.
"Some guys hate me because of the rules," he said. "But sex offenders do much better in group situations. They can share their feeling and new experiences and help each other much like Alcoholics Anonymous."