Archive for Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Open shelter counting on more funding

March 23, 2004


As the first major snowstorm of the season hit Lawrence about three months ago, the city's new shelter for intoxicated homeless people opened in a neighborhood already up in arms over out-of-control college-age drinkers.

Now the Lawrence Open Shelter, 944 Ky., has a full house of guests almost every night of the week, and its operators are working to get financial support and to be good neighbors in the Oread neighborhood.

"It's a struggle, but we're working at it," said Loring Henderson, the shelter's coordinator.

The shelter, which opened in early December, generally has 21 overnight guests seven nights a week, Henderson said. Two employees oversee those guests. The shelter is open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The shelter needs a "bare-bones minimum" of $100,000 a year to operate adequately, Henderson said. It suffered a funding setback, he said, when it didn't get any money this year from the Community Development Block Grant program administered by the city.

Henderson wouldn't say how much the shelter applied for, but he indicated it was between $10,000 and $15,000.

"In our naÃivete, we asked for a lot," he said.

The deadline for applying for the grant was December, the same time the shelter opened. Henderson noted he had no solid numbers or definite information to provide in the application process, and that didn't help.

"It didn't provide a clear picture" of what the shelter needed, Henderson said, noting that such information would be available for next year's application.

"It's just going to cause us to struggle more," he said. "We'll just have to get some more donors and supporters."

Such support could come from Lawrence churches sympathetic to the shelter's mission. A few churches already are providing support, Henderson said.

The shelter was established because the city's other overnight shelter, the Salvation Army, 946 N.H., won't accept intoxicated guests.

Planning for the shelter began more than a year ago and raised the ire of some Oread residents. The Oread neighborhood includes much of the area adjacent and east and northeast of the Kansas University campus.

Oread Neighborhood Assn. president Candice Davis said she had mixed emotions, not only about the shelter, but other services catering to people who are homeless in the same area. They include the Community Drop-In Center, which is next to the shelter, and the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, across the street at 221 W. 10th St., which serves noon meals to people who are homeless.

"The problem in Oread is we're so tired of students who trash the neighborhood and run down their rentals and landlords who let them do it," Davis said. "It's just very hard."

Davis said it was hard not to walk in the area where the homeless services exist without running into somebody who is intoxicated and begging for money.

At the same time, Davis commended the people who managed those services for doing their best to reduce such problems. The services are necessary, she said. She's just not sure they all need to be near the same location.

Davis serves on a task force Mayor David Dunfield formed almost a year ago to study the homeless issue and come up with solutions.

Henderson said the shelter so far has been successful in getting three formerly homeless people into permanent housing; two people into alcohol and detoxification programs, and one person into a long-term mental-health care program.

"These are things we can do to help these people," Henderson said.

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