Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2001

T WANT HOMELESS SHELTER

February 1, 2001

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That's what Brook Creek Neighborhood Assn. residents had to say to Salvation Army officials who want to build a homeless shelter at 15th Street and Haskell Avenue.

Jenna Coker stood up at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night and asked her neighbors: "Does anybody want this here?"

"No!" was the reply, in unison.

Coker turned back to the Salvation Army representatives at the meeting to present their plan.

"We're going to fight this tooth and nail," she said. "We're poor people, but we're going to fight for this neighborhood."

Lt. Carolyn Schuetz, Salvation Army corps officer, said the next step is further study. She didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms.

"What you saw in this meeting is what you would see in any neighborhood meeting," she said.

About 75 residents attended the meeting, the vast majority opposed to construction of the shelter. Among their concerns:

l The area is already prone to flooding, residents said. Additional construction would only add to the problem.

l Attracting homeless people would further "ghettoize" the eastern Lawrence neighborhood that already feels neglected by the city's powers that be.

"It's always on the east side of town," said one man. "Why not the west side of town?"

l Safety of children who attend nearby East Heights School, the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence and the Pelathe Community Resource Center.

One woman, who declined to be identified, invoked Richard Settlemyre, the 9-year-old boy who was murdered and dismembered by a homeless Lawrence man, John William, in the late 1980s.

"You can't expect us to forget that," she said. "In the memory of that little boy, you shouldn't expect us to forget that."

Schuetz told residents the plan needs further study. "I don't think we've addressed all your concerns yet," she said.

After the meeting, she said the child-safety issue merits closer examination.

"We will make sure we address that 100 percent," she said. "We want every child to be safe."

The problem, she said, is that the Salvation Army spent two years trying to find the best alternative to serve a growing homeless population. Choosing the site at 15th and Haskell was the result of that study.

The Salvation Army's current shelter, 942 N.H., houses 35 homeless people during the winter; the new site would house 50 homeless people year-round.

"It's going to be difficult, but we'll look to see if we can come up with compromises," she said.

-- Staff writer Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7126.

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