Residents near the Lawrence Community Shelter want City Hall to keep a close eye on the facility.
Shelter officials have asked that their operating permit be reviewed every five years, but nearby landowners say they've had enough problems that the current system of annual renewals should stay in place.
"It is not that I have something against the homeless," said Phil Hemphill, who organized the petition and lives across the street from the shelter at 10th and Kentucky streets. "My opposition is the way it is being run."
Hemphill said the shelter allowed too much loitering, didn't ensure guests could not leave the building at night to drink, and didn't properly prevent residents from trespassing on neighboring property as they entered and left the building.
Shelter director Loring Henderson said he wanted to work with neighbors to address any concerns.
"I want everybody to remember that we're all in this together," Henderson said. "I don't want this to become an us-versus-them situation. This is a community problem. We need a shelter and it needs to be someplace."
The five-member Lawrence City Commission will review the situation Tuesday night.
Hemphill's petition, signed by four property owners within 200 feet of the shelter, forces the commission to muster four votes for any changes to the permit schedule. Commissioners can review the permit whenever they choose, but they normally do so only at scheduled times.
Hemphill said he wasn't trying to close the shelter; he just wants his concerns addressed.
"But if they can't get it cleaned up in a year, I think they should have to get out of the neighborhood," Hemphill said.
Henderson said he was not sure that all the problems reported by neighbors were caused by shelter guests. Staffers, usually two paid professionals and two volunteers, closely watch guests, including when they are outside. He said if there were instances of guests sneaking out to drink alcohol, it was rare.
He also disagreed with the accusations of loitering.
"We are an authorized drop-in center for homeless people," Henderson said. "They are supposed to come here. If they are sitting around the property and having a cigarette, that doesn't seem to be loitering to me."
Henderson said a five-year permit would give his organization much-needed stability.
Commissioners could decide Tuesday against permit renewal, but City Commissioner Sue Hack said she was looking at other options. A five-year permit wouldn't garner her support.
"Maybe we need to establish some timeframes to have the concerns addressed by," she said.
Also as part of the permit process, the shelter is seeking a change in its maximum capacity to allow 31 overnight guests instead of 28. Currently the shelter houses only 21 guests per night, but the shelter previously announced plans to convert an existing storage room to expand the capacity by seven. A fire inspector, though, said the new area could safely sleep 10, which led to the request for an increased capacity.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.