The Lawrence City Commission voted Tuesday to give the Salvation Army $20,000 to keep its homeless shelter open this summer the first time in the 15-year history of the shelter it will remain open year-round.
"We want to make sure we have the whole summer covered instead of trying to start and stop," Salvation Army Capt. Carolyn Schuetz said.
But the vote to give city money was opposed by activists against the Salvation Army's policy of denying shelter to people who have been drinking.
"We surely are not speaking against the need for a shelter," said community activist Hilda Enoch. "But if the community is going to support a shelter with city money, my tax dollars, then it should be a shelter that's open to everybody."
And James Dunn, president of Landlords of Lawrence, said he was concerned the shelter is competition for landlords. He said he's shown rental houses to people who have decided to stay at the shelter rather than pay him rent.
"I have a concern we're enabling people to get free housing instead of accessing regular housing," Dunn said. "It's too convenient."
Barbara Huppee, director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, countered that by saying her organization has worked with Salvation Army to move homeless people into permanent housing. 58 people since 1998.
"They are not intending to create a maintenance program for homelessness," City Commissioner David Dunfield said.
The $20,000 given by the city is part of $60,000 overall the Salvation Army needs to raise to keep the shelter open during warm weather. The organization had already raised $25,000 from private donations. That leaves $15,000 still needed to meet the goal.
To donate, contact the Salvation Army at 843-4188.