The homeless may sleep under a bridge, out in the cold and in the elements of winter weather, but a city report released Monday suggests the vacated Carnegie Library building is not fit to serve as a temporary shelter.
The report from three city departments indicated that major improvements and liability issues stand in the way of housing the homeless in the building at Ninth and Vermont streets while it awaits remodeling.
Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun said it was unlikely the changes could be made before the buildingÃ¢ÂÂs rehabilitation project begins.
Ã¢ÂÂThereÃ¢ÂÂs considerable work to be done,Ã¢ÂÂ Van Saun said. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not sure our schedule would permit that.Ã¢ÂÂ
The city commission has allocated $500,000 for the project that will stabilize the building. Work is expected to begin early next year.
City commissioners will discuss the report at their meeting at 6:35 tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
Currently, the historical landmark is being used for functions such as barn dances and art exhibits. But opening the doors to the homeless for the night would require the city to modify its building codes from an assembly use to a residential use. Making that change would mean the city would have to provide adequate bathing facilities, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and install smoke detectors.
Advocates of the homeless had proposed the building be used temporarily to shelter homeless people turned away at other shelters because of substance use. In his report to the city, Fire Marshal Rich Barr said the facility would have to be equipped with a fire alarm and fire sprinkler because of the shelter clientele. If a fire broke out, he said, Ã¢ÂÂclients of the shelter may be unable to evacuate the building without assistance.Ã¢ÂÂ
The report also addressed security and liability concerns and raised questions of shelter management, supervision and insurance.
Ã¢ÂÂKnowing this facility was not intended to be utilized in this manner poses risks for the city to go down this road,Ã¢ÂÂ Van Saun said.
Hilda Enoch, chairwoman of the Lawrence Coalition for Homeless Concerns, hasnÃ¢ÂÂt seen the report. But Monday night she questioned the cityÃ¢ÂÂs assertion that using the Carnegie as a temporary homeless shelter would create liability issues.
Ã¢ÂÂMaybe we can help with some insurance for the duration we would be using it, at least to get through the winter,Ã¢ÂÂ she said.
Enoch said construction issues wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be a problem.
Ã¢ÂÂThese people are sleeping out in the cold and the dark,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂYou would think that just being inside would be an improvement.Ã¢ÂÂ
Enoch said that if the city didnÃ¢ÂÂt make the Carnegie available, the shelter problem would remain.
Ã¢ÂÂI feel the city needs to address the issue one way or another,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂI thought we were helping them do it. But if theyÃ¢ÂÂre going to be adamant about this, itÃ¢ÂÂs still an issue thatÃ¢ÂÂs going to be in front of us.Ã¢ÂÂ