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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Carnegie building not fit for shelter use, report says

November 26, 2002

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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 buildingâÂÂs rehabilitation project begins.

âÂÂThereâÂÂs considerable work to be done,â Van Saun said. âÂÂIâÂÂm not sure our schedule would permit that.âÂÂ

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, âÂÂclients of the shelter may be unable to evacuate the building without assistance.âÂÂ

The report also addressed security and liability concerns and raised questions of shelter management, supervision and insurance.

âÂÂKnowing this facility was not intended to be utilized in this manner poses risks for the city to go down this road,â Van Saun said.

Hilda Enoch, chairwoman of the Lawrence Coalition for Homeless Concerns, hasnâÂÂt seen the report. But Monday night she questioned the cityâÂÂs assertion that using the Carnegie as a temporary homeless shelter would create liability issues.

âÂÂMaybe we can help with some insurance for the duration we would be using it, at least to get through the winter,â she said.

Enoch said construction issues wouldnâÂÂt be a problem.

âÂÂThese people are sleeping out in the cold and the dark,â she said. âÂÂYou would think that just being inside would be an improvement.âÂÂ

Enoch said that if the city didnâÂÂt make the Carnegie available, the shelter problem would remain.

âÂÂI feel the city needs to address the issue one way or another,â she said. âÂÂI thought we were helping them do it. But if theyâÂÂre going to be adamant about this, itâÂÂs still an issue thatâÂÂs going to be in front of us.âÂÂ

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