Helping people down on their luck or sincerely attempting to turn around lives of wrongdoing is a laudable endeavor. Giving predators cover and comfort is an entirely different thing.
For nearly 40 years, Youth Services Systems of Wheeling has operated programs intended to help children, some of them troubled or in trouble with the law. The non-profit organization has aided an estimated 16,000 youths.
But YSS went terribly wrong earlier this summer. The organization allowed a convicted murderer who had served his time to stay in a YSS facility on Wheeling Island, near Madison Elementary School. The man, Shelton Cash, had asked YSS for assistance.
Agency Executive Director John Moses said the Wheeling Island facility sometimes is offered as "a temporary refuge for people until they can get their affairs in order ..."
Cash had been living there for about three months when police went there last week to arrest him. In searching his living quarters, they found a gun under the pillow on his bed.
Police said Cash had been making weekend trips back to his original home in Kanawha County. There, a 12-year-old girl has said Cash had sex with her and recorded some of the act on his cell phone. He has been charged with five counts of possession of child pornography and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
And it appears Cash didn't really need help with lodging. He had been working in this area as a miner.
Moses said he was unaware Cash had a job. He added YSS does not conduct background checks of homeless people it helps.
Many in the Wheeling Island community, including parents of Madison Elementary students, are upset about the situation.
They have every right to be angry.
YSS has done an enormous amount of good for a long time. Its work with troubled juveniles may well have turned hundreds away from lives of crime.
But this was a serious mistake. If charges against Cash are true, he was among the most dangerous kind of predators.
YSS officials need to rethink their programs. Helping the less fortunate should not mean putting other people in danger.?