Lawrence residents must work together to solve local homelessness, a speaker at a Lawrence-Douglas County Coalition for the Homeless meeting said Wednesday evening.
Stephanie Coleman-Marks, house manager for Women's Transitional Care Services, an agency that provides 24-hour services for battered and homeless women and their children, said she doesn't believe the argument that some people choose to be homeless.
"I don't know anybody who wants to be out on the streets," she said.
Coleman-Marks said long-term solutions, not quick fixes, are needed to deal with homelessness. And she said that people who help the homeless also are helping themselves because "you never know when you could end up being homeless."
WTCS operates a seven-bedroom home and can house up to 27 women and their children at one time. Although WTCS primarily serves battered women, homeless women also may use the services of the agency.
COLEMAN-MARKS said a problem contributing to homelessness in Lawrence is discrimination in housing. Coleman-Marks said she has heard from women who couldn't find rental housing because they were single parents with too many children, members of a minority group, not students or perceived to be gay. She said women need to learn about their housing rights. If they don't, they stand the chance of becoming homeless.
Coleman-Marks said advocates for the homeless "need to raise some hell" about housing discrimination.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Coalition for the Homeless organized last June after the Salvation Army Safe House, a shelter for homeless people, closed. Jeannie Blankenship, former director of the Safe House and a member of the board of the coalition, said the group formed out of "community response to lack of support" for the homeless in Douglas County. The Salvation Army still operates a shelter at its church, 10th and New Hampshire.
About 30 people belong to the coalition, which has an office at Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm.
The coalition will co-sponsor Homeless Awareness Week Feb. 3-9 along with the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, Ecumenical Christian Ministries, KU Students Against Hunger and Habitat For Humanity.
The schedule for the week is:
7:30 p.m. Feb. 3: Candlelight vigil in front of Wescoe Hall at Kansas University featuring state Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, and Mary K. Meyer, director of the Shalom Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Kan.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 4: Panel discussion in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union featuring Reggie Robinson, associate professor of law at KU; Forrest Swall, assistant professor of social welfare; Blankenship; Jeannie Chavez, a staff member from the Adult Learning Connection; Paul Johnson, executive director of the Public Assistance Coalition of Kansas; and state Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.
Noon Feb. 5: Capt. George Windham of the local Salvation Army will speak about homelessness at University Forum at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 5: Family prayer service at ECM.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 6: Janice Grady, field organizer for the National Coalition for the Homeless, Washington, D.C., will speak in the Kansas Room in the Kansas Union. Following her speech, "Homeless in America, A Personal Perspective," Grady will answer questions from the audience.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 7: Multimedia presentation at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, 1631 Crescent.
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 8: Workday for Habitat for Humanity. People interested in working should sign up by noon Feb. 7 at St. Lawrence or ECM.
6:15 p.m. Feb. 9: "Soup Kitchen Supper" in the basement of the campus Catholic center. Proceeds from the dinner, consisting of soup and bread, will go to the Salvation Army shelter and the Shalom Catholic Worker House.