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Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2003

Economy hurting Drop-In Center

Increasing need, low resources challenge area agencies

March 13, 2003

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Andy Klebenstein Jr. stops by the Community Drop-In Center every morning for a cup of coffee. Homeless since December, he's also received help there applying for housing and educational assistance.

"It's the best place in the world," Klebenstein said.

But the Community Drop-In Center, which offers a place for Lawrence's homeless to grab food, a shower, counseling and job-search assistance, is facing financial problems.

The center, 214 W. 10th St., is serving twice as many people -- up to 70 a day -- as it did in 2001. The landlord stopped paying natural gas and water utilities at the beginning of the year and passed the responsibility to the center, at a cost of more than $200 a month. And it's likely the center soon will face a loss of $5,000 a year in federal grant money distributed through the city.

"The resources are gone," said Tami Clark, the center's director. "The cupboards are bare. It's a real struggle to provide food and toiletries and services for twice as many people as we served a year and a half ago."

In 2001, the center served about 33 people a day. So far this year, between 55 and 70 people are showing up each day.

"With the economy diving, I've seen a real increase of people who were formerly on the cusp of homelessness," Clark said. "They were living paycheck-to-paycheck, and when they lose even one paycheck, they don't have a home."

Margene Swarts, community development manager for the city, said the Community Drop-In Center wasn't the only agency facing a loss of funding. The city received $990,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds this year, down from $1.1 million last year. She said other agencies, including the Salvation Army and Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., also were taking cuts.

"Everybody is getting a little less," Swarts said.

That doesn't help Clark -- or the homeless people she serves.

"We're really needing help," she said, "filling the gap."

Jason Simon, a Kansas University sophomore from Andale, prepares
meals at the Community Drop-In Center, 10th and Kentucky streets.
Simon says he tries to help out at the center every Tuesday, but
more volunteers are needed as the center deals with increased need
and reduced funding.

Jason Simon, a Kansas University sophomore from Andale, prepares meals at the Community Drop-In Center, 10th and Kentucky streets. Simon says he tries to help out at the center every Tuesday, but more volunteers are needed as the center deals with increased need and reduced funding.

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