The city's homeless have a new place to escape the cold.
Lawrence Christian Center, 1031 N.H., is opening its doors in the early evening to give homeless residents a place to escape the weather in the hours before the nearby Salvation Army seasonal shelter opens at 9 p.m.
"We felt we were in this locale and that there was a need," said the Rev. Daniel Nicholson, "so we felt like there was a need to do something about it."
The church moved to its location in August. In early November, it began offering Saturday night meals to homeless people waiting for the shelter to open. This most recent Saturday, church officials decided to open every evening from 5 to 9 p.m.
"We just opened the doors and said 'Come on in,'" Nicholson said. "We figure they can get out of the cold, get something hot to drink, so we offered our facility for that."
Meals are still being served on Saturday. Billy Collette, coordinator for the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutritional Kitchen, said he hoped to increase the number of meals at the Christian Center but that it was too early to say when that will happen.
"Right now we've got enough work just getting in there and getting adjusted," he said.
Gary Miller, chairman of the Lawrence Coalition for Homeless Concerns, said the church's open hours filled a gap in community services.
"Project Acceptance is open, but it's not close to the shelter," he said. "It's difficult for people to get out of the elements. Fortunately, it's been warm, so we haven't had that problem yet."
About 15 people a night have been coming to the church, and as many as 50 people are there on meal nights. The program is staffed entirely by volunteers.