Two local agencies are taking on the huge challenge of helping homeless people in Lawrence.
Lawrence is a caring community and is showing that once again by working toward not one, but two facilities for homeless families and individuals.
Using a $128,000 Community Development Block Grant, the Pelathe Community Resource Center has announced plans to purchase and renovate a small apartment building just north of the Pelathe center at 15th and Harper. The building then would be used to house up to three homeless families.
In the same week, the Salvation Army, which has operated an overnight shelter for homeless people during the winter months, also announced plans to work toward a year-round shelter. Many details remain to be worked out on the Salvation Army project, including its location and financing, but officials hope to make a full proposal at the agency's Sept. 23 board meeting. If it proceeds with the project, the Salvation Army would stage a fund-raising campaign and tap many local funding sources.
People active in local social service agencies are unanimous in their support for additional housing and services for homeless people in Lawrence and frustrated by the limited services now available through the Salvation Army and the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen.
Dealing with the homeless is a difficult problem. While Lawrence wants to be known as a compassionate place, many residents are fearful of Lawrence becoming a magnet for homeless people from other parts of the country. For some, homelessness is a temporary situation. For others, it is a permanent struggle because of mental or physical conditions that make it difficult or impossible to earn a living. In many cases, these people lack the support of friends or family that is needed to get them off the streets.
The ultimate goal of any program for homeless people is to make them not homeless. Although providing food and shelter is a basic need, the local agencies seeking to help the homeless should strive to change their clients' lives rather than just relieve their misery. Not every person who walks into a homeless shelter is employable, but helping as many as possible to become self-sufficient would be the greatest gift a program for the homeless program could offer.
Good luck to the agencies who are undertaking this humanitarian task.