Several residents said a permanent homeless shelter should remain in the downtown area.
Participants of a forum on a proposed permanent Salvation Army homeless shelter said the facility should be placed downtown and should offer support services.
"Don't send us away and hide us," said Patricia Pilgrim, a Kansas University student who said she was homeless her first semester at KU.
"We need to be here in the center of town," she said. "We need to be seen; we need to be heard."
Pilgrim was one of several people who spoke Thursday night at the Salvation Army, 946 N.H., during the first of two public forums on a new homeless shelter.
The Salvation Army's advisory board is sponsoring the hearings. About 60 people attended Thursday night's meeting.
Kelvin Heck, chair of the advisory board, told the crowd that the timetable, cost and location for the new shelter still have to be worked out.
"Most of those are still up in the air," he said.
David Butcher, a Lawrence resident and Vietnam veteran who was once homeless, told board members they should plan carefully for the shelter.
He said that when he was homeless six years ago in Las Vegas, a shelter there was too dangerous for him to stay in.
"I was scared to stay there," he said. "So I found myself sleeping in a park."
Butcher also suggested the Salvation Army purchase nearby homes.
"There's four houses right here," he said. "Buy those houses -- you've got the buildings right here."
However, those homes are on land pegged for the Downtown 2000 redevelopment project, in which the 900 block of New Hampshire will become a commercial and entertainment center. A new Lawrence Arts Center would be built next to the Salvation Army's vacant lot on the north side of its building.
Currently, the Salvation Army operates an overnight shelter during the coldest winter months only. It is open from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The organization wants to establish a permanent shelter that could house about 50 people.
Last year, an average of 27 people stayed overnight in the shelter, said Lt. Kirk Schuetz, corps officer and pastor of the Lawrence Salvation Army.
Lawrence resident Jean Ann Pike said a children's play area should be included in the new shelter.
Other speakers said counseling and other services should be a part of the new shelter.
"If we're going to have a full-service, 24-hour shelter " we really need to look at all the services that are required," said Marilyn Roy, Lawrence, who said she had been homeless for four years.
The second public comment session on the proposed new shelter will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Salvation Army.
-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.