Lawrence's homeless now have a place to go all day, every day.
Effective Saturday, the Community Drop-In Center will no longer close at noon during the week. It'll be open until 5 p.m., weekdays and weekends.
The Salvation Army will open at 5 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays. The Lawrence Open Shelter, 944 Ky., will open at 5 p.m. Wednesdays.
"All three agencies are working together to provide shelter and services 24-7," said Tami Clark, director at the Community Drop-In Center, 214 W. 10th St. "This will make it so everybody will have a place to go instead of waiting on a curb downtown, and they'll have someone there who'll help them work through the barriers to employment and housing."
She added, "This is a huge step for all of us."
The expansion is funded with $11,610 in emergency funds approved by the Lawrence City Commission last month. After Dec. 31, the commission will decide whether to continue its support.
The commission is expected to also weigh the recommendations of the city's Task Force on Homeless Services, which are due Dec. 14.
Mayor Mike Rundle said the expansion appeared to address long-standing concerns that services for the homeless may be duplicative or misdirected.
"In the end, what we want is a comprehensive system that addresses these concerns and that is the right response to the particular set of issues faced by the homeless here in Lawrence," Rundle said.
Task force member Steve Ozark said round-the-clock services should save the city money by "lessening the burden" on police and Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
At the Drop-In Center, Clark said that while the city's homeless population was ever-changing, its numbers have remained steady.
"We opened in September of 2000 and since then there have been a number of censuses that put the number of people who are homeless at about 250," Clark said. "That seems right. It hasn't spiked even though the economy has done some wild things in the last four years."
Clark said the center provided services for "about 20 new people" a month.
"We served 1,000 people in 2003," she said, "but that was spread over 12 months. We usually see about 50 people a day."
Paula Gilchrist, social services director at the Salvation Army, 946 N.H., agreed.
"The numbers are about the same," she said. "The mix is what's different. Like, today, I think we're seeing more people who are between jobs or who are working but weren't making enough to hold on to their housing."
Also, she said, the numbers of mentally ill and alcoholic appear to be increasing.
"There isn't a place for them," she said, noting that Lawrence Memorial Hospital closed its in-patient psychiatric unit earlier this year. The hospital does not have a detox unit.