The owner of a counseling clinic for sex offenders said she plans to leave their location in southeast Portland's Sellwood neighborhood after dozens of concerned community members met to discuss ways to force the clinic out.
Whole Systems Counseling opened last December, but many people only learned about the clientele recently. The clinic is in a nondescript building on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue in Sellwood, down the street from a Boys and Girls Club and a Montessori school.
"I just think it's an insane choice of places," said Julie Wallace, who owns a book store across from the clinic.
The clinic's owner, Johneen Manno, came to Monday night's meeting but was asked to leave. As she made her way out, the owner of the Sellwood Montessori School confronted her.
"My husband and I own the Montessori school and you have never contacted us, ever, ever. "We just found out on Thursday," the owner said.
Manno told her, "And you know what, I wish we would have had an opportunity to do that."
Outside the meeting, Manno said, "I can completely understand where they're coming from. I'm a parent myself. But we are trying to provide something that truly will help people become more safe."
She said she wanted to move the clinic out of the area, provided she can get out of her five-year lease early.
On Monday, Manno said her current landlord has agreed to let them vacate their lease.
A community member at Monday's meeting contacted her about a lead on a new location that would be away from schools and Manno said she will pursue it.
She said she doesn't have a move date yet, but plans to leave the location once a new lease is in place.
Manno said she worked with the Boys and Girls Club to form a risk management plan, but said she just learned about the Montessori school recently. She also described trying to meet with members of a local business alliance shortly after moving into the area, but said efforts fell through.
Manno denied being deliberately secretive, saying she had to balance the rights of her clients, who also include family members of sex offenders and victims of sex abuse. She said none of her clients are considered predatory sex offenders or require community notification.
"As far as informing schools and neighbors, that is something that… people who have committed offenses also have rights that we have to follow and we have to follow our ethics," she said.
Many of the people attending Monday night's meeting seemed determined to force the clinic out of the area.
When one person suggested contacting a professional mediator to help with the situation, one of the women leading the meeting responded, "There's no aspect of mediation that is going to make the majority of people in this neighborhood feel safe, quite frankly."
Copyright KPTV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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