A local homeless shelter will close April 1 because of insufficient funding, an advisory board decided Friday afternoon.
The Salvation Army Safe House, 924 N.H., will close because its continued operation "would debilitate the traditional and essential social service programs of the Lawrence Salvation Army," according to a statement issued after a meeting Friday of the Salvation Army's advisory board.
The Safe House, opened in January 1990, provides temporary housing for up to 19 homeless people. Salvation Army officials said more than 350 people have used the Safe House.
Richard Zinn, chairman of the advisory board, said after the meeting that board members considered conducting a public fund-raising campaign to keep the shelter open. But the board decided to close the Safe House because a continuous source of funding could not be assured, even if a public campaign could raise $70,000 to cover costs the Salvation Army has incurred since initial grants that supported the Safe House were exhausted last year.
"WE DID NOT want to go to the community unless we were assured of a funding base that would enable the Safe House to operate . . . on an ongoing basis," he said.
The board also determined it was "not feasible" to conduct a yearly drive to raise funds in excess of the $100,000 required annually to operate the shelter, he said.
City, state and Salvation Army regional office grants helped establish and pay costs of the Safe House through "a majority of 1990," Zinn said, but a source of continuous funding was not developed.
Zinn, a local attorney, said that when the Safe House was established, it was hoped that half its cost could be paid by the city of Lawrence and the United Way of Douglas County.
"IF WE could've had the assurance that $50,000 was forthcoming . . . we would have taken it upon ourselves to raise the additional $50,000," he said.
Zinn said the Salvation Army appealed to the city and the United Way for larger donations last year, but the city and the United Way did not significantly increase funding for the Salvation Army with the addition of the Safe House.
"We did the best we can . . . with the financial realities," he said.
"I'm very disappointed that we had very little notice" about the closing, said Lawrence Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith, who also is ending a term as president of the United Way.
BARB SMITH, executive director of the United Way, said an emergency meeting of the United Way board of directors would be held early next week to discuss the Safe House.
However, Smith said she did not know if the board could come up with alternatives to avoid closing the house. The time and date of the United Way board meeting has not been determined.
In its statement, the Salvation Army board said two or three families currently living in the Safe House could participate in a "limited homeless program" whereby they could live in a small apartment adjoining the gymnasium at the Salvation Army's local headquarters, 946 N.H.
"We fervently hope that our community, rich with talent, energy and resources, will not let the legacy of Safe House disappear. The need remains," according to the board's statement.
THE SALVATION Army began its emergency shelter program in 1986, providing food and nightly lodging during winter months for the homeless in its gymnasium.
The Safe House was conceived as a permanent shelter, offering residents transitional counseling. The emergency shelter in the Salvation Army gymnasium has been reopened at times, especially during harsh winter weather when there was no room at the Safe House.
"We need more space, staff, food, teaching materials, and money. Safe House is needed. It has made a difference," the board's statement said.
"Establishing that Safe House was needed, and that it could make a difference in people's lives, were however, only two of the three factors the Salvation Army Advisory Board determined in 1989 to be the criteria for defining whether Safe House could operate as a permanent community institution," it states.
"The third factor was whether our initial funding grants would be renewed and whether significant community financial support would be forthcoming. Neither has occurred at the level needed to ensure Safe House's continued operation as a transitional living facility for those most in need."