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Southern Indiana homeless outreach director arrested on drug charges

A gavel rests inside the court room of the 100th Air Refueling Wing base legal office at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 28, 2019. The attorneys in the legal office offer commanders legal advice and also provide services like notaries, power of attorneys, wills and legal assistance to Team Mildenhall. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)
Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron
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The founder and operator of a well-known Southern Indiana homeless outreach group is facing multiple drug charges.

Paul Stensrud, director at Jesus Cares at Exit 0, was arrested Thursday after officers executing a search warrant at his Clarksville home reported finding evidence of a cannabis grow operation, including five greenhouses and five fully grown plants. Officers say they were operating on multiple tips that Stensrud was growing cannabis in the home for distribution.

They also reported finding other THC-based products and evidence of a previous or future grow operation for psilocybin, a chemical in psychedelic mushrooms.

Stensrud was questioned at the Clarksville Police station where officers say he admitted to growing the cannabis plants, having moved to that after growing tomatoes. He said it was a relaxing hobby for him, and that they had been cultivated for personal use only.

He was booked into the Clark County Jail but was released on his own recognizance Friday. He faces preliminary charges including a Level 6 felony for maintaining a common nuisance and possession of cannabis.

Jesus Cares at Exit 0, a faith-based mobile outreach organization, was formed in 2008 in Jeffersonville. The group regularly provides meals, supplies and essential items like clothing and sleeping bags to local residents experiencing homelessness. They make rounds in a mobile unit, checking in on people who are unhoused. They have helped people secure identification cards and other documents necessary to receive services.

“We are working toward becoming a ‘teach a man to fish’ ministry,” according to the organization’s website. “We point them in the direction to get proper identification, and help encourage them to get gainful employment if able…”

The group’s Facebook page also says their mission involves more than just providing food.

“Many need our prayers and our Love and need to be treated like Humans and not overlooked,” it reads.

Jesus Cares at Exit 0 is one of a handful of community groups working to address gaps in services and housing issues in Southern Indiana, which only has one low-barrier shelter to cover multiple counties.

Stensrud and the organization were also part of a multi-group coalition in 2019 that helped with relocation and services to nearly 100 residents who were displaced after the closing of America’s Best Inn & Suites, a hotel on Eastern Boulevard in Clarksville that provided long-term stays.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.