- Off the grid
- Not all big cities are BIG CITIES
- “The shower house is closed for winter.”
- Calling the LaLeche League!
- If Alaska’s not your thing….
- Instagram girls go off grid to grow cannabis & become self-sufficient
- Mucus Plug: Does Labor Start When You Lose it? (Photos)
- How soon does labor start after you lose it?
- What to Do If/When You Lose Your Mucus Plug
- Here’s an animation of what happens when you lose the mucus plug right before birth
- How About You?
- U.S. sees largest one-day increase in coronavirus death toll since the outbreak began; San Francisco area asked to shelter at home
- Underground and off the grid: Lawmakers work to solve issue of homeless sex offenders
Off the grid
Who among us hasn’t fantasized about leaving terrorism, war, poverty, bankruptcy and all the other 21st century problems behind and going off the grid? You know, living a simpler life? One in which your only focus would be yourself? And survival, of course. But oh, how wonderful it would be to know for certain that a terrorist will never, ever come within reach. Ever.
But there’s still danger: maybe a grizzly. Or a wolf. Let me explain.
Not too long ago I found a TV show called Railroad Alaska. It’s about what they call the toughest railroad in the world, mostly because the climate and distance are so tough. That’s what they SAY it’s about. But it’s really about the people living off the grid, whose only lifeline to civilization is the railroad. And they are an interesting bunch.
The stereotypical conductor. I have a lot of questions for him. , WTF is he doing in Alaska? Is he an actor?
We are RIVETED to this series which, unfortunately, we missed for its first three seasons. It’s slow going trying to tape reruns and then view them in sequence and avoid buying them on Amazon. But I don’t want to step sequence because, well, every little thing is important. So let me explain a bit. Because the dialogue’s lame and one episode is the next. Except for this:
Not all big cities are BIG CITIES
One senior couple lives off the grid some 90 miles from the nearest city: Talkeetna. To really get a hold of what that means, consider that the population of Talkeetna is only 900.
In one early episode, the older woman, who is just recovering from a stroke, neglects to get her necessary medication on her monthly trip to town. So, she called her son and told him it was an “emergency”–and it was, because the medication would help prevent another stroke.
The son, who lives in Talkeetna, had to drop what he was doing to catch the weekly train that ran by his parents’ homestead.
Just in frontier days, the train stops when it needs to, not at a station. And that day it stopped near the homestead. Maw and Paw zoomed to the tracks on their snow machines to pick up their son for a visit and medication drop. The timing of all this is never clear, but you get the drift. So to speak.
Now, in the city, how would it be if you had to drop what you were doing to take a train out to the bush and back? Yeah, I thought so.
The son said he knows his folks want to live on the homestead (which is a fairly shabby and rustic place without indoor plumbing) so he does all he can to help them do that.
Obviously, even in poor health, the senior couple chooses to live (and probably die) isolated in the bush.
Maw said that when they first moved to the property they had no insulation. Outdoor temps got to 67 below zero. “So when it got up to 47 degrees below zero if felt a warm spell.”
Umm. Not even.
The outhouse. Year ’round. Need I say more? You can see his left hook. So to speak.
“The shower house is closed for winter.”
Can we discuss indoor plumbing? The “shower house” is away from the main house and it closes for their (brutal) winters. So, no showers all winter. All the long winter. Yeah, it would be a mighty long winter if I couldn’t shower. Mighty long.
An even older couple who seem to be on the edge of crazy also live out in the bush. The guy, hair and beard askew with a slightly crazy look in his eye, accidentally shot off his hand one year.
Now, had he lived in the city, he’d have had a fancy mechanical hand and lots of rehab to get him to work it. He’d be pretty functional. But out there in the bush, well, such things don’t happen.
So a large hook replaced his hand.
“Is that hook DUCT-TAPED to his arm?” I asked M., incredulously. Because that’s what it looked to me. But no, the hook had some sort of basic black leather sleeve he slipped on. Life is very basic out in the Alaskan wilderness. And they are a completely fascinating couple. I mean, the look on my face as I watch must be priceless.
There are other cast members, but I just this this pic says it all. See the hook?
Calling the LaLeche League!
Two newlyweds who both love living in isolation are also featured on the show. She looks she’s missing a few teeth and he spends a whole lot of time thanking his lucky stars for finding a woman who wants to live off the grid, too, and who has the skills to do it. In Season 1, she was expecting a child.
He had to be gone overnight so instead of sending her to town, a girlfriend of hers with a six-week-old infant came to stay. Since he took the only snow machine, I’m not so sure what girlfriend could have done for pregnant wife in an emergency except, perhaps deliver the baby.
After he left, though, girlfriend realizes she’s come all this way and FORGOTTEN HER BABY’S FORMULA.
Ok, so what mom does this? And where are those breast-feeding Nazis when they’re needed?
So now she has to leave nine-month-pregnant off-gridder and trudge TWO MILES through deep snow WITH HER BABY IN A FRONT-FACING PAPOOSE dodging wolves and moose who could find that baby might tasty.
She picks up the train, finally, goes to town (90 miles which is a few hours) to get formula at the tiny general store and then takes the train back and trudges two more miles in what had to be the dark (by then) but for purposes of the show, it’s daytime.
Of course, this had to be staged. Because I doubt new mom would forget formula. But it’s reality TV.
any woman, I’m wondering how this pregnant woman has her baby in the bush. But we never get to see that. Instead, next episode, she has a six-week-old infant and there’s no mention of how it all came about. Did she do it alone? Was there a midwife? Did her mother come? Obviously, this show is written by men.
So, you can see how escapist it is and how addictive it is to consider living in a place where you don’t even think about measuring liquids you travel with so they are three ounces or less.
I love the lack of stress about terrorism: no self-respecting terrorist would trudge through the wild to come shoot you up.
And if, by chance they did, and hell would have to freeze over first, well, you’re armed to the gills because you need to be for survival in the wild.
Off the grid is a fantasy for me, but this is a time when some of us are seeking refuge in fantasy.
If Alaska’s not your thing….
The other day I read a blog post by a woman who said she is finding her own safe haven in the Hallmark Movie Channel.
That made me smile because I, too, tape those sappy love stories that all have a happy ending. No one gets beheaded or shot. I love them.
In fact, there are four or five waiting on my DVR right this very minute. Far preferred to the idiocy of Fox or the unprofessional CNN news team.
So, times are tough right now. There’s a lot of tension in the air. But most of us city slickers are ill-equipped to live off the grid. So what to do to get away from the constant onslaught of real-life violence?
My prescription is a dose of Railroad Alaska, a couple of Hallmark movies, and if you have a really bad case of 21st century anxiety, try the five hours of Railroad Alaska’s Realtime Rail Trip: five hours riding the train through remote Alaska nonstop. No dialogue. Some moose.
It is a meditative experience just made for a nice bowl of weed. Fire up and…
Instagram girls go off grid to grow cannabis & become self-sufficient
Published: 09:48 GMT, 14 January 2020 | Updated: 13:32 GMT, 14 January 2020
Three women who moved off-grid to grow cannabis and live the simple life with their animals have shared a glimpse at their unusual set-up.
Lexie, 28, Amy, 31, and Doris, 39, moved out to the Californian countryside to start up a farm and become self-sufficient, and are sharing their rustic exploits via their steamy Instagram account 'Girls Off Grid'.
A typical post will show then brandishing rifles, chopping down trees, or feeding chickens in skimpy bikinis.
The founder, Doris, revealed she decided to start the account as a farm spoof on Girls Gone Wild, and the women keep 65 sheep, 60 goats, 40 chickens, fifteen ducks, eight guinea hens, three alpacas, two turkeys, two horses, two dogs, two cats, one pig.
As they are no longer allowed to sell their cannabis commercially, they make their money by selling farm fertiliser, walnuts, and growing their own food – even doing their own plumbing as the nearest shop is an hour away.
Amy, 31, Lexie, 28, and Doris, 39, (L-R) moved out to the Californian countryside to start up a farm and become self-sufficient, and are sharing their rustic exploits via their steamy Instagram account 'Girls Off Grid'
Speaking about the enterprise, Doris revealed: 'I created Girls Gone Off-Grid as sort of a spoof on Girls Gone Wild, explains Doris, the founder of the enterprise.
'I figured we can lure in followers with our sexuality but then show them that we are actually doing some real farm s***.
Until late last year the girls were growing industrial quantities of cannabis.
'That made a lot of money', Doris said ruefully. But unfortunately my county no longer allows commercial cultivation.'
As they are no longer allowed to sell their cannabis commercially, seen right, they make their money by selling farm fertiliser, walnuts, and growing their own food. Pictures see them posing with rifles in mini skirts (left) and by their produce in bikinis (right)
The women keep 65 sheep, 60 goats, 40 chickens, fifteen ducks, eight guinea hens, three alpacas, two turkeys, two horses, two dogs, two cats, one pig
They also grow walnuts, a lucrative crop since Doris figured out how multiply her selling prices tenfold by going direct to consumers and take care of dozens of animals.
'We currently have 65 sheep, 60 goats, 40 chicken', Doris said proudly.
'Fifteen ducks, eight guinea hens, three alpacas, two turkeys, two horses, two dogs, two cats, one pig.
'And a partridge in a pear tree!'.
The women say they try to lure followwers in with their more 'sexual content' and then teach them more about the farming life
The women had a successful commercial cannabis business but are no longer allowed to sell it commercially
Lexi the founds says she's trying to post less sexual content but some pictures see the women enjoying a break from farm life in bikinis by the sea
But the life also has its tougher sides, and being an hour's drive from the nearest town forced the girls to learn practical skills all for themselves.
'Living off grid, with my own plumbing and septic, taught me really quick that I needed to learn all that stuff too,' she said.
'So over time I learned about different generators, how to lay PVC pipe, or fix breaks, do oil changes, work with propane appliances and set up my own solar'.
As these videos and pictures show, the girls certainly aren't afraid of getting down and dirty.
'My chainsaw skills are probably what I'm most proud of', Doris admitted.
Elsewhere the women take part in target practice wearing dresses as they make sure they can defend their farm against wild animals
Another picture sees one of the women wearing a gun with her mini-skirt as they go about the 15 hour day of looking after the farm
The women are seen with their cannabis harvest as they go about their daily routine
'Not many guys I know are comfortable picking up and running a saw, it's definitely one of the more dangerous jobs around here'.
Far from being a born-and-bred country girl, Doris was in fact brought up in an affluent white collar household her father owned the largest beer distribution company in San Francisco.
'Back in those days I was always wearing designer clothes, and I literally always wore heels', she remembered.
'I hated getting not being clean, and wasn't into any outdoor activities that wasn't shopping or hanging out by a pool or beach'.
A random twist of fate saw her father selling the business which led Doris into starting an organic fertiliser business, and from there taking an interest in food production.
Working in the agriculture industry, meeting farmers and seeing all the crap they spray on our food made me realize that I wanted to grow and raise everything I could myself,' she said.
The women are pictured with a crop of walnuts (above) and a crop of cannabis (below)
The women are seen with their dinner during the snowy winter season
The women are seen with a few crops of cannabis on their trucks
'What was great about starting my farming life in industry was the knowledge I picked up. To sell fertilizer to farmers, I had to learn the science behind it all.
'I took courses, read books and learned soil science, plant pathology, microbiology etc. Those type of skills are crucial for running a successful farm'.
But as well as the science, running a large ranch and managing so many animals sometimes presents heartbreaking situations for the girls to deal with.
'Most of our problems on the ranch have to do with the livestock', Doris revealed.
'With so many here, anything can happen, at any time.
'It might just be a sheep stuck with fencing around its neck, or a goat going into labor with a breached baby, or could be a coyote going after and killing my chickens.
'The worst is when a bear eats half an animal, and leaves it alive for me to find in the morning. That's happened twice.
'A pig with its shoulder eaten off, still totally alive but obviously not going to make it.
'I just have to get my gun and put down the pig. It's probably the hardest job around when an animal is sick or injured or born deformed and I have to shoot them.
'It's hard on me'.
There's no such grisly content on their account and some online commentors have even criticised the girls' over-sexualised take on country life.
'I've decided to tone down the sexy stuff a bit recently,' Doris admitted.
'But that's kinda hard with Lexi and her big nice a**.
'And with her being a Florida girl, she naturally struts around here all summer in her thong.'
Despite her cannabis growing history, Doris isn't a fan of seasonal volunteers getting high off the supply.
'I myself was a complete stoner from the ages of 16 to 29,' she admits.
'But when I started my business I realized I couldn't be high and productive at the same time.
The women also hire seasonal workers – though they aren't aloud to smoke until after the shift
Seen: Baby goat feeding night time equipment. Bears are a big problem for them.
One of the women is seen fishing
'And it's funny, because everyone that first comes here assumes that it's ok to be high while working on a pot farm. But I have a strict no smoking rule, until after work anyway.
'I hate dealing with a bunch of stoners. There are so many things that they can mess up, from feeding to watering, so much better I say to save the smoking for after work.'
This year Doris is expanding the girls' operation.
'This year we are building two more tiny houses to rent on Airbnb, our one last year was a hit and I did zero marketing.
'We are also starting retreats here; building a commercial kitchen and eating/meeting area at the very top of the mountain with platforms nearby that will house canvas tents.
The women are proud of their goats and often have to feed the baby goats themselves
The women are seen with their crop of growing cannabis
'The different retreats will include yoga, permaculture, animal husbandry, women's, health, native American culture, herbal tinctures and more'.
And Doris is adamant she'll never go back to living in a city.
'I plan to raise my children and homeschool them here,' she said.
'I'm an entrepreneur at heart so I'll always be creating new business whether it be products or services but all of them will be centred around this lifestyle.'
But it certainly isn't the life for everyone, as Doris herself is quick to point out.
'The worst things about this life, hands down,' she says, 'is that I can't order food, or pick up something easy.
'I'm hardcore into not eating processed foods, so I cook everything from scratch.
'And after a long, hot, 15-hour day of farm chores, I'd give anything to just grab some take-out.'
Mucus Plug: Does Labor Start When You Lose it? (Photos)
There are some parts of pregnancy that don’t get talked about much. lochia, the normal bleeding that occurs postpartum. Or vernix, the cheesy white substance covering a newborn’s skin. Or, of course, the mucus plug.
In this post, you’ll learn…
The mucus plug is just what it sounds , a plug made of mucus. During pregnancy, the mucus plug develops and lodges in the cervix to block the cervical canal. Its job is to protect your uterus from unwanted bacteria and pathogens that could enter in, from sexual activity or vaginal exams. (source)
Secretions from the cervix, and an increase in estrogen and progesterone begin to form the mucus plug early on in pregnancy, when the ovum makes it’s way to the uterus. Even though the plug lasts until the end of your pregnancy, your body is constantly creating new mucus to keep it fresh.
- Color: It can be clear, white, green, yellow, slightly pink, or brown. (Kinda the mucus that expels from your nose and throat.) Normally though, they are off-white with streaks of pink.
- Texture: It has a gelatinous look and is thick while in the cervix, but typically becomes thin and more liquid once expelled.
- Size: The mucus plug is about 4-5 centimeters long, or about 1 ounce in volume. If your body doesn’t expel the plug all at once, it may seem much less.
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Still not sure what to expect? Several Mama Natural readers generously contributed these photos of their mucus plugs.
Mucus plug photo 02 Mama Natural This photo is from a mama who lost her mucus plug six hours before giving birth to her second child at 40 weeks 4 days pregnant.
Mucus plug photo 01 Mama Natural This photo is from a mama who lost her mucus plug at 38 weeks and 1 day. She went into early labor 12 hours later and delivered her baby girl 14 hours after that.
Mucus plug photo 03 Mama Natural This mama lost her mucus plug on June 24th, early in the morning, and had her daughter on June 27th just before lunch time.
Once the baby “drops” and settles lower into the pelvis, this starts the process of the cervix opening. When the cervix begins to “ripen” and soften in preparation for labor, the mucus plug is no longer held firmly in place and falls out. These changes in the cervix can cause capillaries to burst, creating the pink tinge of the mucus plug.
- Some women lose a large portion of their mucus plug at once. If this isn’t your first time around the block, your cervix is more elastic making it much more ly for the plug to come out in one piece, with little to no blood.
- Other women lose their mucus plug gradually—even over the course of a few weeks.
The plug is commonly expelled after a trip to the powder room, or during a shower, making it difficult to observe. Because vaginal discharge is increased during pregnancy anyway, you may not even notice it at all!
Losing your mucus plug usually means that your body is preparing for labor. It is, after all, one of the main lines of defense between your womb and the outside world. Your cervix is ly effacing, or dilating, or both to get ready for the big day. Effacement is when the cervix thins and stretches, while dilation is when it opens. (source)
How soon does labor start after you lose it?
Even though your body is showing signs of preparing for labor, don’t grab your birth bag just yet. Birth could be hours away, or it could be a few weeks away. It depends on each woman, and there is no cookie cutter answer. (source)
- If this is your first baby, then it could ly be a few days or weeks before labor begins.
- If this isn’t your first baby, then you’re more ly to be in the “give birth in a few hours” camp.
There really is no definite timeline here.
What to Do If/When You Lose Your Mucus Plug
- If you’re 37-42 weeks along and you’ve definitely lost the mucus plug and the discharge is normal in color, it simply means that baby will be arriving in the near future. It’s time to wait it out. (source)
- If the loss of the mucus plug is accompanied by contractions that increase in intensity and duration, and/or your water breaking, labor is definitely on its way and you need to contact your birth team.
If the mucus plug is accompanied by a large amount of bright red blood, about 1 Tbsp or more, that can be a cause for concern and you should contact your midwife or doctor. Because it could be a sign of complications such as placenta previa, it’s important to talk to your healthcare team right away.
Placental abruption is a rarer condition that can also cause bright red bleeding. During a placental abruption, the placenta detaches either partially or fully from the uterine wall. (source)
If you haven’t lost yours yet, you may be wondering when to expect it to happen. Your body typically gets rid of the plug between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation.
It can even happen as late as when you are pushing baby out! (Yes, this happened to me in my 3rd birth.
) Some women can lose it earlier in the pregnancy—the body will create more mucus to protect your baby.
As your body begins to prepare for delivery the cervix softens, or becomes thinner and wider, and you will naturally shed the mucus plug. Some women in late pregnancy may also lose their mucus plug—or a portion of it—after intercourse or an internal exam.
Here’s an animation of what happens when you lose the mucus plug right before birth
Even though it’s an early sign of labor, the mucus plug can regenerate itself to some extent if it’s lost earlier than the 37 week mark. As long as contractions haven’t started and there’s not a lot of bright red blood, there’s typically nothing to worry about. (source)
However, if it’s lost before the 37 week period, be sure to let your midwife know so she can keep an eye on things. Losing it early on in pregnancy could indicate premature labor.
If you do happen to pass the plug early on in the pregnancy, it will ly regenerate. (source) Even if it doesn’t regenerate, you still have the amniotic sac surrounding the baby, protecting them from infection and pathogens.
The amniotic sac is the last line of defense between the outside world and your baby, but the mucus plug is really the heavy hitter when it comes to destroying incoming pathogens. If you’ve lost it early, healthcare providers may recommend you refrain from sexual activity. They’ll also advise you not to swim in a city pool, lake, or anywhere else that may carry a risk of infection.
Bloody show vs mucus plug: what’s the difference between mucus plug and bloody show?
While the mucus plug can be slightly pink or even have streaks of blood in it, it is not necessarily the same thing as bloody show. (source)
- Bloody show: The term bloody show is used when there is blood passing the vagina and it’s mixed with a little mucus. It is a stringy mucus, and can occur after a vaginal exam and usually during labor as a sign of progress. (source)
- Mucus plug: The mucus plug is a thick gelatinous plug of mucus that is sometimes—but not always—tinged with blood. (source)
So to review, the mucus plug:
- Can be many different colors, but typically a gelatinous off white with or without pink streaking
- Is ok to lose early, as long as your birth team knows
- Isn’t cause for worry, unless there’s over 1 Tbsp of blood when you lose it
- May or may not jumpstart labor
- Is not (necessarily) the same as bloody show
In my first pregnancy, I lost my mucus plug and didn’t know what it was. For me, it was very liquidy and mostly clear. I woke up and felt I peed in my pants. I assumed my water broke, so I went into the midwives office. She tested the pH and told me that it was the plug. My labor began 12 hours later. (BTW, I never saw the bloody show.)
With my second birth, I never saw a mucus plug or bloody show.
With my third birth, the plug shot out while I was pushing! Yes, the first time I pushed, I pushed that thing out. It looked the popular kids’ “slime.” It was an opaque color with hints of pink and red. Right before that, I saw the bloody show and my water broke.
I asked the moms on my page to share when they lost their mucus plug and whether labor started shortly after. Here are some of their responses.
- I lost mine with each pregnancy as I was having mild cramping before labor/birth. Only hours before. Looks a pink and clear swirl ball of snot about the size of your palm. — Jennora W.
- Both my kids were born at 37 weeks. Never saw it with my first, but with my second I shed mine for a course of 10 days. I was having mild contractions and looked large amounts of semen with a tinge of blood, varying in size. So gross, but so natural. — Brooke V.
- With my first, I lost it a little at a time starting a few days before labor. With my second, I lost it halfway through labor. — Tara K.
- I lost mine about an hour and a half into labor. It reminded me of seaweed, only red. — Kristy Y.
- I don’t remember seeing mine at all. I got to the hospital at 6cm and still hadn’t seen anything. Could have came out after, but I don’t know how I could still have a plug at 6cm! — Hannah M.
- Despite having five kids, I’ve never seen a mucus plug. — Liz W.
- I don’t think mine came out until I was already quite far along in labor at the birth center and was in the tub there. It came out in the tub, so I didn’t really see it much! — Patty D.
- Not until I was hours into labor, and I told my midwife it looked a small jellyfish— the ones you see washed up at low tide. — Jillian K.
- The only time I noticed losing a mucus plug was with my third child. I noticed it when my water broke, contractions started about three hours later. — Gloria H.
- I lost my mucus plug roughly 12 hours before active labor started with both kids. — Stephanie J.
- Mine fell out a week and a half before my daughters were born. It started prodromal labor though. — Meredith
How About You?
How did you lose your mucus plug during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below!
U.S. sees largest one-day increase in coronavirus death toll since the outbreak began; San Francisco area asked to shelter at home
Health departments in the United States on Monday reported the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths on any one day since the onset of the outbreak. As of Monday evening, officials had reported 18 people dead, bringing the nationwide total to 85, according to a Washington Post tally.
President Trump in a Monday news conference recommended that states with evidence of community transmission of the virus should close schools, as well as bars, restaurants, gyms and other gathering spots.
“It isn’t an overreaction,” Anthony S. Fauci, a leading member of the president’s coronavirus task force, said of the recommendations released Monday.
About 4,450 coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States, though experts suspect the true number is much higher.
Here are some other significant developments:
- U.S. markets plunged, despite the Federal Reserve’s emergency interest rate cut to zero.
- President Trump told governors Monday that states should work on getting respirators and ventilators, and not wait for the federal government to provide them. The president’s comment was confirmed by multiple officials briefed on the call to governors.
- “When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy,” the U.S. surgeon general warned Monday. Widespread social distancing could help change that trajectory, he said.
- The director general of the World Health Organization warned at a news conference there has not been an “urgent enough escalation” in testing, isolation and contact tracing.
- France will begin a 15-day total lockdown, limiting the freedom of movement of citizens who are allowed to leave only to see doctors, buy food or walk to essential jobs.
“,”author”:”Derek Hawkins,Â closeDerek HawkinsNational and breaking news reporterEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowKim Bellware,Â closeKim BellwareReporter covering national breaking news and featuresEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowKatie Mettler,Â closeKatie MettlerReporter covering breaking news and featuresEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowLateshia Beachum,Â closeLateshia BeachumGeneral assignment reporter EmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowJennifer Hassan,Â closeJennifer HassanSocial media editor for the foreign deskEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowReis Thebault andÂ closeReis ThebaultNational and breaking news reporterEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowTeo ArmusÂ closeTeo ArmusReporter on the Morning Mix teamEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollow”,”date_published”:”2020-03-16T00:00:00.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/vh82ris9ZXx94QFwC7pqhhU-Qug=/1440×0/smart/arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/WIRRNHTHHMI6VMMZHKLZTRKFCI.jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/16/coronavirus-latest-news/”,”domain”:”www.washingtonpost.com”,”excerpt”:”Daily life in the United States continues to grind to a halt as authorities scramble to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.”,”word_count”:256,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}
Underground and off the grid: Lawmakers work to solve issue of homeless sex offenders
MILWAUKEE — On the morning of July 5th, a white van left Fox Lake Correctional Institution. In the back, Matthew Schechter, a Milwaukee man with a history of sex crimes.
As a young man in the late '80s, he had sex with two teenage girls; in the mid-'90s, forceful sexual assaults on adult women. After 22 years in prison, he’s getting out, his time served.
No one wants a sex offender Matt Schechter living next door to them, and it’s certainly understandable. Municipalities across the state have codified this with ordinances that restrict where offenders can live. But are those restrictions really keeping you safe?
Four hours after leaving Fox Lake, Matt Schechter walks the state building on 6th Street — his first steps into freedom after 22 years. Where those steps will lead him, he doesn't know. The prison van left him here to be processed by parole and fitted with a GPS monitor.
“They didn't have any answers for me,” Matt says. “No housing options. Just, 'We're gonna put you on this GPS bracelet, and good luck.’ That's all they told me,” Schechter said.
The maze he will try to navigate over the next 48 hours spotlights serious issues with sex offender residency requirements in Wisconsin. By state law, sex offenders have to return to the county in which they lived when they committed their crime. For Matt, that's Milwaukee.
However, there are 19 municipalities in Milwaukee county, each with different restrictions on where he can live — various buffer zones around areas children might be — schools, parks, daycares and so on.
No one has given him any information on what those rules are, and he knows one wrong move can put him back in prison.
After stopping at a bank to cash a check his father in Germany sent him to get started, he boards a bus for Walmart.
“I feel pretty anxious and nervous,” he says as the bus rolls south on 27th Street. “I probably only have enough to get by for a few days,” Schechter said.
At Walmart, Schechter picks up supplies and a cell phone. He has to call his parole agent to advise her where he's staying, once he figures out where that is. Sex offenders don't get a map of areas they can live when they get out prison and they don't get a list of approved addresses. They're directed to decipher the buffer zones on their own.
But first, the cell phone is a challenge. Immediately it becomes clear, things have changed in 22 years. He struggles for an hour to figure out how it works.
Finally, once he gets it working, he calls Oak Creek Police. He’s not allowed to access the internet. He’s heard there are some motels on South 27th where he may be able to stay the night. They give him the green light for one night. But time is running out. The battery on his GPS monitor is low.
“It’s only good for 12 hours. If I don't charge it and it goes off, there will be a warrant issued for my arrest,” Schechter said.
So Schechter starts walking south, hoping to make it to a motel in time: A homeless sex offender, deemed by the state to be so dangerous he'll remain on the registry for life, strolling the street at night looking for a place to stay.
State Rep. Joel Kleefisch
“You can see what a mess this has become,” says Republican State Representative Joel Kleefisch. He’s been pushing for a statewide standard, a uniform buffer zone everywhere, but he's getting pushback.
“No municipality wants to be told that their specific rules shouldn't be in place. If you're a municipal leader you want to tell your citizens 'we don't have any place in this municipality for sex offenders to live,'” Kleefisch said.
Matt eventually did find a vacant motel room for the night, plugs in his GPS, and talks about his past.
“In 1994, I had a lot of anger. I had a lot of issues growing up, and I didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't know how to talk to people, and along the way I hurt a lot of people,” Schechter said.
In prison, Schechter explains he did five years of therapy, including sex offender treatment , and drug and alcohol treatment.
“Ultimately, I want the same thing everybody else wants . I want to get a job, and go to school, and make a life for myself,” Schechter said.
But the next day, Schechter is on the move again.
“Every place you try to stay is illegal. The shelters won't take me because of my status,” Schechter said.
And Schechter has had to leave Oak Creek because the city, along with 15 other municipalities in Milwaukee County, has what’s called an Original Domicile Restriction: If you didn't live there when you went to prison… You're not allowed to live there when you get out — anywhere.
No one tells sex offenders that when they're released. It's another avenue in the maze they have to figure out.
As the night gets late, Schechter tries to find a blanket to sleep with for the night, but strikes out. With nowhere to turn, he walks into a Milwaukee Police station and has a stroke of luck. An officer, sympathetic to his situation, says he can stay in the park next door.
Schechter shows us where he’ll be sleeping: “Back there are some benches underneath those trees. So I'll just use my duffel bag as a pillow and put on my jeans – try to keep some of the bugs off,” Schechter said.
48 hours after Schechter was set free, as the sun rises over MacArthur Square the next morning, he is in violation of Milwaukee's sex offender ordinance — the park, smack in the middle of a child safety zone. But with nowhere for him to go and with the blessings of police, his parole agent approves it.
“Well, I'm disappointed in that,” snaps Alderman Bob Donovan.
Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan
Donovan sponsored the most recent restriction on sex offenders in the city. In April, Milwaukee re-defined the word “residence” to mean a place where a person sleeps at night.
So now, it's illegal for a registered sex offender Schechter to even fall asleep within the city's safety zones.
Fifteen other municipalities in Milwaukee county have the same measure, taking away the exemption for a temporary place to sleep.
“The purpose of the legislation was to close that loophole,” explains Donovan.
Where are they supposed to stay?
“Well, not in Milwaukee,” said Donovan.
But one week later, that's still where Matt Schechter is sleeping — in the same park, next to the police station.
“I know it feels good to people to say, 'Oh yeah, we did something.' But look at what you're doing. It's not designed to keep children and other people safe.
It may look that way, but it's really designed to make it impossible for sex offenders to find anywhere to live. So they're forced to go somewhere else. The problem is, the ways the state laws are written.
We can't go anywhere else,” Schechter said.
So where in Milwaukee can Schechter live? The city has a 2,000 foot buffer zone, leaving just pockets of possibilities. Most aren't even residential.
A car dealership, for example; the parking lot of a pet supply company; the 10th hole at Tripoli Country Club; the taxiway at Timmerman; the coal piles on Carferry Dr.; a section of St.
Adalbert's Cemetery; and most of Mitchell International Airport.
In the entire city, there are just 55 addresses approved for sex offenders. FOX6 Investigators checked them against the sex offender registry, and found there is not a single sex offender living in any of them. Most are single family homes — not for sale and not for rent. The few multi-units don't allow felons.
Wendel Hruska of Project Return
“It’s catastrophic,” says Wendel Hruska of Project Return, a program that tries to help former inmates transition. He's seen how being homeless drives sex offenders underground and off the grid.
“Those individuals can't really function,” Hruska said.
“And that means they have nothing to lose,” adds psychologist Anna Salter, who has studied the sex offender mind. “It`s definitely a risk factor for re-offense.”
“They're stuck,” says Hruska.
Stuck, Matt Schechter.
One month after his release from prison we check up on him. He's found a full-time job, but he can't find a place to live. Each night after his second shift, he returns to the park, and puts up his tent.
We notice Schechter’s mood is much darker than it was a month ago.
“I`m considering just saying f–k the whole thing and turning myself back in,” Schechter said with frustration. “Even in prison you have federal civil rights to a bed and a bathroom. If this is winning, I don't want it.”
Today, more than a month after our last interview with Schechter, he has finally found a place to stay in West Milwaukee –- one of the three municipalities that doesn’t have the original domicile restriction. However, there are more than 230 other sex offenders still on the streets in Milwaukee County.