The community's top group studying homeless issues is calling for a new citizens' committee that works to resolve neighborhood and business concerns about a downtown homeless shelter.
The city-appointed Community Commission on Homelessness agreed Tuesday that city commissioners should grant a five-year extension of the permit that allows the Lawrence Community Shelter to operate at 214 W. 10th St. But the group also said the shelter should be mandated to work closely with a yet-to-be-appointed Community Cooperation Committee to come up with solutions for loitering, trespassing and other complaints regarding activity at the shelter.
The recommendation - which will be considered by city commissioners in early March - left some neighbors disappointed.
"We needed to tell the shelter that it has to fix these problems and it has to fix them now," said Phil Hemphill, who lives near the shelter and is a member of the homeless commission.
But Helen Hartnett, co-chair of the homeless commission, said she thought the group's recommendation would help address the concerns.
"Once the dialogue is open, hopefully people can come up with strategies to solve some of these specific problems," Hartnett said.
In December, city commissioners extended the shelter's operating permit for only three months after hearing complaints from neighbors and businesses that shelter leaders weren't doing enough to stop its users from loitering, trespassing and creating other neighborhood concerns.
City commissioners also had received a report that police were asked to respond to calls at the shelter about 300 times in 2005.
Shelter director Loring Henderson said he was pleased with the homelessness commission's recommendation.
"I think it is a good effort to recognize the concerns of the neighbors and respect the needs of the shelter," Henderson said.
He also said the current permit process put plenty of pressure on the shelter to work well with the neighborhood.
He noted that even though the recommendation was to extend the permit for five years, city commissioners have broad authority to revoke the permit whenever they see fit.