OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - WFTV's Greg Warmoth reported on a growing and potentially dangerous problem in Osceola County. Because there is no homeless center, hundreds of homeless families are using motels as temporary residences.
Moments after Warmoth's story aired on Channel 9 Eyewitness News Thursday evening, reaction began coming in.
Many viewers took to Facebook to express their concerns that children are living next to sex offenders and predators along U.S. 192, in motels meant to house tourists.
On Friday, Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell echoed some of those same concerns.
"It's a hotel and they live next door, wall-to-wall next to each other," said Hansell.
The sheriff said his sexual-offender unit keeps close tabs on the now-300-plus offenders in Osceola County. He said it's not just about the 41 offenders WFTV discovered living along U.S. 192.
"It's a widespread problem, and not just confined to one area of Osceola County," said Hansell.
So far, there have been no re-offenses. But the sheriff thinks everyone would be better off if motel owners would notify their guests if an offender is at the same property. WFTV learned that is not happening in some cases.
"When they're notified that there's an offender, or especially predator, actually living in their hotel, I would think that probably would be the right thing to do," said Hansell.
County leaders said they are trying to find affordable housing for the families. They admit that the problem of families and offenders living in the same motels is showing no signs of letting up.
"The county is working hard to make them what they're supposed to be and that's a tourist hotel, but in these times they are providing a service that needs to be provided," said Hansell.
Greg Warmoth takes an in-depth look at the issue in this week's Central Florida Spotlight , Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
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