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Archive for Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Coordination of efforts sought for homeless

February 4, 2004

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Five major financiers of homeless services in Lawrence are looking at options for streamlining efforts to provide food and shelter to people living on the streets.

The Local Funders Group, made up of representatives from five area governments and charitable organizations, met Tuesday to discuss the idea of encouraging cooperation -- and eliminating duplication -- among at least six providers of services to homeless people in Lawrence.

Possibilities range from encouraging teamwork among agencies to limiting the group's financing only to agencies that provide coordinated services.

"Resources don't just go on forever. They're limited," said Jo Bryant, a group member and executive director of the United Way of Douglas County. "One way to really be responsible for those resources is to make sure you're doing everything you can with every dollar you've got. I'm thinking about that every single day. I know how hard it is to raise money. I just want to make sure it's used well and efficiently."

The group, which meets four times a year, is made up of representatives from the United Way, city of Lawrence, Douglas County government, Douglas County Community Foundation and the Rice Foundation.

The group's past meetings have included discussions about encouraging agencies that serve the county's homeless population to work together and to avoid duplication.

The Lawrence Task Force on Homeless Services, convened by vice mayor Mike Rundle, already is working to develop strategies for delivering efficient services to people who are homeless.

"Once we get those recommendations, assuming they have some good recommendations, we want to use the possibility of using our influence to enforce those recommendations," said Craig Weinaug, a Local Funders Group member and county administrator.

The group went into Tuesday's meeting with six agencies on its list for discussion: Salvation Army, LINK, Jubilee Cafe, Warm Hands, Community Drop-In Center and Lawrence Open Shelter.

The Salvation Army, which runs an overnight shelter and serves meals, receives $28,500 a year from the city and $50,000 from the Rice Foundation.

Rich Forney, Salvation Army administrator in Lawrence, said that avoiding duplication was essential but that mandating collaboration could prove difficult. While other shelters in town welcome people who have been drinking alcohol, the Salvation Army's does not.

"Coordination, that's the thing to do," Forney said. "If you have like think among the agencies, it can happen. But if people aren't seeing things alike it's difficult to get things done."

Steve Ozark, co-director of the Lawrence Coalition on Homeless Concerns, said even talking about the prospects for cooperative efforts could have a positive effect.

"With more communication between them, we really can amplify services and utilize opportunities the best we can," Ozark said.

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