Community shelter’s permit extended

Lawrence Community Shelter dodged a public-policy bullet Tuesday.

The City Commission voted to accept the program’s plan for improving neighborhood relations, adding nine months to its conditional use permit.

“I appreciate their decision,” said shelter director Loring Henderson.

Earlier, city officials had tied the permit to the homeless shelter’s coming up with a plan for soothing its long-strained relations with nearby tenants, homeowners and businesses.

Without the permit, the shelter would have been forced to close or move.

Though unanimous, the commission’s vote was less than enthusiastic.

“We asked the shelter to come up with a plan and : they’ve come up with a plan,” said Mayor Mike Amyx, quickly noting that the shelter at 944 Ky. was in a building that’s too small and in a location that’s fast becoming a nightmare.

Amyx said he hoped he and Henderson would spend the “next seven months” finding an alternate location.

“That was music to me,” Henderson said afterward. “We don’t want to be there, either.”

The shelter’s plan called for regular meetings with police, neighborhood forums and encouraging neighbors to call, write or e-mail Henderson with their concerns.

Also, several rules have been enacted to address complaints of trespassing, drug use, drunkenness and aggressive panhandling.

Henderson said many of the neighborhood’s concerns have been – and continue to be – addressed.

Neighbors Brandy Sutton and Phil Hemphill scoffed at Henderson’s assessment, saying it would only lead to more meetings.

“How many meetings do we have to have before something happens?” said Hemphill, who lives across the street from the shelter.

Sutton, an attorney whose office is within a block of the shelter, asked the commission to direct the shelter to impose stiff penalties for anti-social behavior, install security cameras, protect those who report criminal activity, give police authority to enter the premises without permission, and insist on the homeless providing identification.

Some “known drug dealers” and convicted sex offenders hang out at the shelter, Sutton said, adding that both should be banned.

Sutton and Hemphill’s comments were countered by Sharilyn Wells, an advocate for the mentally ill. She reminded the assembly that Lawrence has neither an inpatient mental health unit nor a detox program.

“Where is it we think these people are going to go?” Wells asked. “The only place is jail.”

Commissioner David Schauner said he would accept the plan if Henderson cited specific penalties for bad behavior.

Henderson said that he would. Afterward, he said the ranks of the homeless include convicted felons and sex offenders.

Troublemakers, Henderson said, are routinely banned from the shelter, the Salvation Army and the LINK meal program.

Also, he said, the homeless are expected to provide identification.


A story Wednesday on the Lawrence City Commission’s decision to extend the Lawrence Community Shelter’s conditional use permit reported that Brandy Sutton said “known drug dealers” and convicted sex offenders hang out at the shelter, and that both should be banned.
In an e-mail to the Journal-World, Sutton requested the following clarification: “I said that there are known drug dealers hanging around the shelter and that registered sex offenders and those with outstanding warrants should not be permitted to use the LCS facility.”