Archive for Friday, November 10, 2006

Shelter should be downtown, city told

Members of task force not convinced about location

November 10, 2006


Downtown is the logical place for a new homeless shelter to be built, the leader of a national homeless organization told city leaders Thursday.

"It needs to be in or near the downtown area," Michael Stoops, the acting national director of the Coalition on Homelessness told the city's Community Commission on Homelessness. "Moving out to residential areas is fraught with problems. Even moving out to industrial areas is a problem because you get resistance from businesses."

Members of the city's task force on homelessness, though, weren't sure they agreed. Rick Marquez, who is on the task force and also is the director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said he thought Lawrence's downtown was different from many others.

"I can understand a lot of communities having shelters downtown because the service providers are located downtown," Marquez said, talking about places such as Social and Rehabilitation Services offices, mental health agencies and other groups that could provide help to the homeless population. "That's not the case here. A lot of downtowns don't have the amount of retail we have. I'm not sure how well a new shelter would work downtown."

Helen Hartnett, who is chairwoman of the city's task force, said she had mixed emotions on the issue. She said if there was an existing building in another part of the community that could work as a shelter, it should be examined. But she said there were real risks of placing a shelter outside of downtown, which has been home to the Salvation Army shelter and the Lawrence Community Shelter for a number of years.

"They (the homeless) may not follow us if we move it out of downtown," Hartnett said.

Specific plans to replace the Lawrence Community Shelter have not been developed. But a report prepared in June 2005 by the task force recommended that a 15,000-square-foot emergency services shelter be built. The report estimated such a facility would cost about $2.5 million.

Some task force members on Thursday expressed disappointment that more hadn't been done by city commissioners to tackle the shelter issue. The task force earlier this year had asked the commission to spend $50,000 to secure an option to purchase the former Lake View Nursing Home in southwest Lawrence. The task force wanted to explore whether the vacant nursing home could be used for a shelter. City commissioners, though, did not approve the request after neighbors from the area objected.

"Anytime the neighborhood shows up, the commission just buckles on the issue," said Robert Mosely, a member of the task force. "Personally, I feel the City Commission is just leaning toward the affluent in the community."

Mayor Mike Amyx, though, said he thought the City Commission had done a lot of work on the homeless issue. The city is now funding - about $200,000 per year - four case workers who do outreach work with the homeless. The commission also resisted calls by some neighbors to revoke the operating permit for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

Amyx said the community now needs to have a discussion about where plans for a new shelter fit into the community's goals.

"We have to make some decisions about what the priorities of the community are going to be," Amyx said. "Are we going to do a library, are we going to focus on infrastructure improvements, will we do a homeless shelter? There are lots of issues for us to decide."

All the talk of a new homeless shelter is in addition to plans by the Salvation Army to build a new facility in East Lawrence that would primarily serve families who are homeless.

Stoops' organization is the one that earlier this year ranked Lawrence as the second-meanest city in the country toward the homeless. On Thursday he said he wasn't ready to change that ranking because the city still has ordinances that outlaw camping on some public property and outlaws aggressive panhandling. He has said those ordinances attempt to "criminalize" being homeless.


Ragingbear 11 years, 7 months ago

~~Mayor Mike Amyx, though, said he thought the City Commission had done a lot of work on the homeless issue. The city is now funding - about $200,000 per year - four case workers who do outreach work with the homeless.~~

This is an out and out lie. The "city" is not footing a single cent of this bill. This is all from specific government funds awarded to the city for this very purpose.

NIMBY is the big problem here. Don't want it downtown because it makes the city look bad. Don't put it near businesses, because they will maybe sorta kinda leave. Don't put it in residental areas because of an entire plethora of issues. Where are we going to put it then?

Just because a shelter is out on the edge of town means nothing when the two kitchen, a clinic, the library, and a variety of other facilities are near there. I will tell you what you will see, people camping in wooded areas stumbling into town in the early mornings to go to Jubilee Cafe. People dying of exposure, or crime, rapes etc.

The city has tried so hard to make the city look clean and neat, that they don't want homeless people dirtying up their little fenced in trees. Why don't they actually DO something about the horrid homeless problem in Lawrence instead of just pushing it around on their plate like a 4 year old with a brussle sprout?

geekin_topekan 11 years, 7 months ago

The only thing in this article that made sense was "they may not follow the shelter.." Exactly!the enablers aren't exclusively the "pimps" but also the people of the city of Lawrence.And many generous KU students who want nothing more than to help a poor begger find a little joy for the day.That seems to be the nature of a majority of the citizens because thats what attracts and keeps the homeless here.The over all friendliness of the city.If every citizen felt the same as Smitty,and I use him because he seems to be the first to speak up when the homeless headline appears,Lawrence would not have a homeless problem because we would have a reputation as a mean and nasty town.The same elements that attract all those west end types to move to toontown is the same element that attracts the homeless.Lawrence has a reputation as a friendly,safe and open community.For that we should be proud.If Smitty's plans were implemented we'd be....Emporia.

oldgoof 11 years, 7 months ago

The Shelter could move to Louisianna Purchase. I understand some restaurants are vacating space there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 7 months ago

The comments here indicate that homelessness is a problem that needs to be addressed at the national level. Local and state governments will still have a major role to play, but until it's addressed seriously on a national level, there will be no real solution.

Jeteras 11 years, 7 months ago

I have seen the signs at all the entry points in Kansas.. "Homeless, Peddlers, Beggars and Strange people goto Lawrence they welcome you and you can even pick up smokes off of mass street for FREE!!

SpeedRacer 11 years, 7 months ago

I think it should be on the first floor of the Hobbs Lofts.

janeb 11 years, 7 months ago

That is an excellent proposal. I will go to Council with you to support that motion.

Steve Jacob 11 years, 7 months ago

No matter where the shelter goes, the homeless will still end up downtown. That is where the money is.

I got a great idea. Some people are trying to move the post office out, why not make that a shelter.

This city has talked alot, but NOTHING has been done to solve the problem, and it's only goton worse.

commonsense 11 years, 7 months ago

Since they have decided to keep the facility downtown, how about finding a spot that is conducive to the homeless as well as the public (businesses & neighborhoods).

I'm not sure where, but somewhere near the police dept and S. Park sounds logical. The park is right there, which is constantly frequented anyway, downtown is right there, the kitchen is near, transportation is there, Dillons is 6 blocks away for necessities, and since it's near the PD, perhaps the constant in/out supervision of our city's finest would help support positive decision making. Perhaps a few old homes and their lots could be purchased and transformed. Just a thought from a downtown local yocal!

Kelly Powell 11 years, 7 months ago

a community work farm...a safe healthy envirement where people who truly want to get on their feet can stay ....yes , they would have to work for their keep...the products they raise or make could then be sold(thus people can "feel good' about helping the homeless) thus helping relieve the monetary burden. let's say they work three days a week, and two evenings of classes(like sally is trying to offer)....give them two days of slack time and two days of trying to find a job.......if they find a job their checks are direct deposited and they are allowed a stipend until they have enough to afford a apartment. go ahead and shoot holes in this....but at least it is an idea.....and gives these people a more noble purpose then to be the pets of collage students who want to feel good.

common_cents 11 years, 7 months ago

I like the work farm idea. Have the shelter outside town on a nice 40 acre plus lot on which they can grow vegetables in a communal sort of way.

Not only could they grow their own foods, but they could sell the extras at the farmers' market. (this has already been said but I want to emphasize the point.)

In addition, being that the shelter would be semi-self supporting, I'd be willing to have the city pay for a daily shuttle service to and from town for basic needs.

Add stiff (and enforced) penalties for panhandling and we might actually have something that would work.

Redzilla 11 years, 7 months ago

I still marvel at how perspective affects this issue. Coming from Tampa, FL, I don't even see that Lawrence has a big homeless or transient issue. If Lawrence had the same per capita homeless rate as Tampa, there would nearly 3,000 homeless people in town. In downtown Tampa I was not infrequently panhandled a dozen times a day. In three months, I have not been panhandled once in Lawrence.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 7 months ago

There you go...just bus them all somewhere else, so you don't have to deal with the problem, OTTR.

Who will be next?

The physically handicapped, because they're an inconvenience to you?

The developmentally disabled, because they're an inconvenience to you?

Deaf people, because they're an inconvenience to you?

Blind people? People with pets? People with children? Where do you stop?

I think OTTR is suffering from a severe case of "I" strain...unfortunately, he doesn't appear to be the only one.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 7 months ago

some of them wouldnt...some of them are incapable....but after those who would try started working at the farm the straight out panhandlers could be singled out and those with mental illness could get more attention to their needs....Hell, my idea may be so flawed as to be laughable, but we will never know because it will never much fear of liability lawsuits and work envirement standards(damm litigous society)

Kelly Powell 11 years, 7 months ago

they could market stuff kind of like the ammana colony up in iowa....Hell, they do not even have to grow it, just get the supplier to slap a sticker on it stating it is from the lawrence hope farm(or something all hopeful and positive).

Kelly Powell 11 years, 7 months ago

Other non panhandling ideas....i allways thought about a shoe shine stand.....a owner of a coffee shop was going to let me do it on his porch (this was going to be for fun money, but scheduling prohibited it).....they could get a specific corner to be the hot dog cart......I, personally would pay to have someone else shine my shoes. To me that is one of the few self indulgent luxurys that men have(a good haircut and a straight razor shave with the hot towells is another). homeless guys could take turns running the booth.... a downtown courier service is another.....Or a spot labor job cleaning up after parades.....and please do not tell me this is demeaning....I would rather (and have) shovel sh!t then beg.

50YearResident 11 years, 7 months ago

The more the City offers to the Homeless, the more Homeless will come to the City. As you can see from the On The Street comments the homeless are flocking here from Seatle, St Louis and many other locations. Why should Lawrence spend millions of dollars on a new shelter just to attract more problem homeless people to come here for never ending and increasingly costly freebies? These are not local residents that are down on thier luck. For the most part they are transients out for the best handouts. Right now Lawrence is offering some of the best benefits in the region. Why spend more money to attract these people? I say let them go anywhere out of Lawrence.

pelliott 11 years, 7 months ago

Lazy bums, maybe they are related to the lazy minds who don't care that their opinion doesn't match the research. Even though the lazy minds sound stupid they at least get to be abusive, must hit some pleasure zone for them. They blame and attack the services, the churches who don't agree that other peoples hunger is okay dokay. The blame the volunteers and agencies that man the front lines trying to give a chance to the indigent and those in trouble.

I know people with jobs who work hard, who can't get the dough re mi for first, last, security, and utilities. Combined with the restrictive renting laws, wish it was at least three unrelated people allowed to rent together. Current minimum wage laws, a little gift from the greedy, lack of a health carel system that works. Many of the families and elderly who are homeless or hungry have been stripped by one major medical emergency. Many find their way back, some die on the streets. Job programs that are ineffective due mainly to the corrupt system that privatise for profit, converting our tax dollars to crook dollars. If you want the homeless to work, give them a job, they are hard to get without an address and hard to keep when rain floods your box. I know several formerly homeless people successfully jobbed and homed because an employer gave them a chance. It is a risk for a business but like a lot of people they would rather do something than do nothing, The hot air creepy whiners aren't really what I call doers. I appreciate people who do something. People who complain about the people in this community who are doing something, rather than nothing are, oh I forgot, can't say that, polite society.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 7 months ago

Put up homeless in Masonic Lodge (10th & Mass.). Have them dress up and re-enact great battles of the Cival War.

getserious 11 years, 7 months ago

The homeless shelter does NOT need to be downtown. Are you kidding me? What part of down to most out of towners come to visit, shop, eat? I know you can't lump all the homeless together, but I have been rudely asked for money, had incredulous things said to my wife, seen some taking tip money off a table. I say build it where the new Wal mart wants to go. No downtown shelter.

Ceallach 11 years, 7 months ago

Can't move to industrial areas because the businesses would balk . . . the downtown merchants have been taking flack for years because they do not turn their business and store front footage over to the homeless for use as a bedroom/latrine!!

Good points made about the difference between homeless and transients . . . many of ours are transients.

When the national director of the Coalition on Homelessness starts donating his time, the way so many Lawrence citizens are doing daily, then what he says might sound more credible and less like a sales pitch. Let's face it, too many people are living well in their never ending quest to serve the huddling masses.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 7 months ago

I am ok with a homeless shelter for that purpose only the true homeless, now the twenty something crowd that has been spoiled rotten that thinks they can just bum around and beg from everyone to feed them and their dogs, that is not homeless that is just plain lazy with atouch of everyone owes me attitude, they do not really need our help or our citys help.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 7 months ago

Relatively close to downtown, definitely. It is a public outreach that works with other services which are near downtown. There are many, many legitimate crises and circumstances that lead people to poverty.

Spoiled kids with dogs? Lots of people that you size up as dirty or poor or homeless are NOT going to a shelter. The fact that they carry their bed on their back might be a clue that your hard-earned taxes aren't providing them room or board or anything else.

Some of the people you see sitting on a bench in front of the Salvation Army aren't even sleeping there, they are hanging out and socializing just like you might on a different bench.

Is it possible to discuss this without passing judgment on those who use the shelter? We really can't get anywhere until then. Some people have children, some are thieves, some carry all their possessions on their back, some buy lots of luxury crap, some drive horribly, some want to take away your civil rights, some have illnesses, some break their workers' backs to produce luxury items, some are in crisis and some need shelter.

Let's get past ignorantly pointing fingers, because you really don't know anyone else's life experience, and we all make certain choices that affect others, and you can't live in any neighborhood without having neighbors.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 7 months ago

We could send them all to italy for the holmes, cruise wedding:)

50YearResident 11 years, 7 months ago

<<Stoops' organization is the one that earlier this year ranked Lawrence as the second-meanest city in the country toward the homeless. On Thursday he said he wasn't ready to change that ranking because the city still has ordinances that outlaw camping on some public property and outlaws aggressive panhandling. He has said those ordinances attempt to "criminalize" being homeless. Second Meanest City is not good enough, Lawrence needs to be the FIRST Meanest City. Then the Homeless problem will go away, to easier handout locations. At that time the facilities we presently have will be more than adequate.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 11 years, 7 months ago

Where have the mountain lion sightings been? Put the bums by the mountain lions. If they can catch them, they get a job with animal control. If they can't, they get eaten. Problem solved. Employed or lunch!

white_mountain 11 years, 7 months ago

Personally I like the whole "big city" feel that downtown is in all honesty missing right now.

Odd as it sounds, panhandlers are a part of the whole look and feel of a great downtown experience, and we shouldn't be trying to sterilize our shopping centers by keeping the homeless out.

Meatwad 11 years, 7 months ago

a lot of homeless people are no problem and just dealing with their own issues. Unfortunately there are also a number of them who hang out downtown and frighten and threaten people, and some who don't frighten anyone but purposely annoy anyone walking by. It's sad that we can't go for a walk downtown without being accosted in every single block. It's sad that a minority of the homeless ruin it for the majority. But if I could vote for a shelter NOT being downtown, I would. I care deeply about our downtown and homeless people making it a uncomfortable place to spend time in are only going to hurt our downtown in the big picture. I know parents who refuse to let their children go downtown day or night because they feel it is unsafe. Homeless drunken people yelling at everyone on the sidewalk is not good for downtown.

classclown 11 years, 7 months ago

Posted by Culture_Warrior (anonymous) on November 10, 2006 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)


They can pull rickshaws. Close the downtown off to motor vehicle traffic.


Why does that sound so familiar? Hmmmm.... Oh yeah!

Try giving credit where credit is due. Don't plagarize.

Meatwad 11 years, 7 months ago

The more the city 'welcomes' homeless people AND at the same time does nothing to try to home or employ them and change their lives, the worse the situation will get, the more people will have anger toward the homeless. many hard working, poor people would LOVE to live downtown but can't afford it. I'd rather reward those who want to work hard with more affordable housing. Instead of giving free housing to people who don't work.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, the homeless are so frightening and threatening...

I bet they are the ones who always scream obscenities at me out of their Blazers and Expedition as they careen down the street at 1 am with their lights off.

If not, they are probably those guys waiting outside the dance club waiting to shoot someone at 2 am.

Maybe they are the ones trying to take a small percentage of my money when I buy things, thinking I can afford to lose more money just because I am making a purchase.

Well, if not, they at least must be responsible for all the vandalism to my cars. I mean, there's a halfway house two doors up and they're crawling all over the neighborhood.

Wait, those were actually sorority girls, well-dressed thugs, tax legislators, and neighborhood kids. All upstanding citizens with addresses, ID, places to be, cars, and endless changes of socks.

The homeless guys are actually playing chess, munching on unsold bagels and muffins, hanging out having afternoon conversation, getting friends together for informal sessions with volunteer job counselors, helping handicapped folks into LINK for their one decent hot meal, fixing bicycles, chatting with cops about suspicious activity the night before, and gathering for a weekly writing group.

I don't get it.

justaword 11 years, 7 months ago

Living near downtown on the "homeless highway", I wish the shelter was elsewhere. I am very tired of having drunk, drugged homeless persons on my or the neighbors' property, any time of the day or night, making noise, leaving litter, and cursing at me when I ask them to leave. Sometimes, they are so drunk or drugged, I am afraid to enter or leave my own home.

I am tired of watching persons going to the bathroom behind buildings where they think they cannot be seen. Do these persons really believe they are invisible? Homes and businesses do have windows.

Build the shelter near to the river. Give these persons a chance to have shelter without insulting other citizens who have homes or work downtown.

white_mountain 11 years, 7 months ago

Panhandlers are a normal part of every thriving downtown area in the country. Lawrence should be no different. Build the shelter and give these people a break.

I agree with Sasquatch, there are so many rude people on here.

SpeedRacer 11 years, 7 months ago

I have no real beef with homeless people, I sympathize with their predicament and I admire those who work tirelessly to better their condition. Those who create problems associated with the homeless, and who are usually the ones who accost me downtown, are generally transients and "professional bums", but I have found that this is not limited to those whom this thread has addressed. I have been "spared changed" by college students and leftover hippies. At the Douglas County fair a girl who couldn't have been more than 12 came up to me and told me to give her a dollar. I have lived all over the country and have experienced much worse in Philly, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and New York. But, generally, smaller towns and cities do not have this of the reasons I settled in Lawrence many years ago. I believe it is the culture of this city that creates an atmosphere where some people find this sort of thing acceptable. I don't like it, but I don't really have a reason to go downtown anyway, so I don't really have to deal with it. The things that attracted me to Lawrence are slowly disappearing, and I will likely leave in the future. It is up to the citizens of Lawrence to determine the course the city takes, and they will make those decisions at the polls. I just hope that able people who care will step up and offer their services to the people.

Bob Forer 11 years, 7 months ago

hey Red Neck, I like your idea. And its certainly not keeping in the redneck tradition. Lets be honest with ourselves. There are the truly homeless, and then there are the transients who come to Lawrence because its a great place to get free hots and a cot, without much hassle from the powers that be. First, we need to deal with the issue of attractiveness to the transients. What Lawrencian other than Loring Henderson and Comapny really want to attract transients to our community? Henderson's push for the nursing home is simply reflective of your typical bureaucrat who wants to expand his hegemony and institutional power and standing. If he really cares about our country, he should be going after the criminals in Washington who have us mired in an illegal and immoral war. I guess its safe to be a shill for the "poor downtrodden homeless." Once the transients are removed, then we need to deal with the mentally ill, and my advice is simple. We need to reverse the contemptible actions of our Legislative (lead by the shameful KU School of Social Welfare) in emptying the state mental hospitals. Case management is a joke. Simply another way that the liberals suck up to the millionaires in reducing taxes, mainly theirs. Most of the mentally ill either end up in prison, or homeless, and neither option should be accpetable in a civilized society.

Once we have dealt with the transients and the mentally ill, and only once that has been accomplished, then we will be in a positon to deal with the truly homeless, the marginal folks who have been left behind in today's capitalist society. For those people a collective farm would be ideal, provide d there are adequate programs to empower them to become self-sufficient citizens. Of course, self-sufficiency is only tenable if we quit talking about the dignity and honor of work, and actually do something about it, i.e., raising the minimum wage to a reasonable living wage. I have no problem with the goverment providing employment for all those who want it, at a living wage. For those who want to sponge off the rest of us, let them eat cake.

Sarah Rahija 11 years, 7 months ago

I don't know how the interviewers pose the "where are you from?" question, so this may not be a valid point. I wonder how many people in this town would say they are "from Lawrence" when asked? I have seen several people, like cooks, sales people, students, teachers, ... that have been interviewed for the "On the Street" section that are from all over the country. I have lived around Lawrence for over two years and am finally feeling like I am "from" here. Would it be possible that those interviewed for this topic might be "from" different locations and have stopped to make a new "go" of it here, just like people outside of the transient community move to new locations to make a fresh start, be near family, ... ?

Several posts have mentioned "keeping downtown _ (insert quaint descriptor of choice)". As the transient community (and I am including those labeled as homeless) is made up of people, I am inclined to think that there are going to be some that are nice, some that are rude, some that are quirky, some that drink too much, some that expect something for nothing, and some that work their tails off to improve their lives .... just like there are corporate executives that are nice, rude, quirky, drink too much, .... I have received rude comments/stares by all sorts of people, in all states of sobriety/social stature as I have been downtown. I've also seen more than one person pee in an alley - none were from the transient community.

I have seen gratitude and relief in the eyes of a man when greeted with a handshake, asked his name, and offered a sandwich ... fear in the eyes of a boy who wondered what the motive was in offering him a cup of coffee and an apple, followed by a look of embarrassment that he had a need for them ...

Who are we to judge? Who are we to complain about sharing the air with someone who smells "foul" to our nose (I've ridden elevators with women who wear too much fragrance and have had the same sensation wash over me -- should we ban them from work?)? Who are we to say that we want our town "rid" of a whole group of people? It makes me smile when "we" tout our own friendliness - as an outsider, I would ask that "we" re-examine our actions.

I feel this is coming out in an arrogant or rude way, which is the exact opposite of what I intend. I just think that before we (and I completely include myself in this!) blame an entire people group (whether it be the transient population, a political group, religious group, ethnic group, ...) for something, we might want to take a closer look. Is that one group of individuals solely responsible for the situation at hand? It is not an easy question to ask or answer.

janeb 11 years, 7 months ago

Case Managment is NOT a joke. It is the most effective way to assist an individual out of a dependant situation and into a role of independance. Shelters with no rules or requirements are a joke. These facilities enable dependance on a long term basis. Case Managment affords an oppertunity for the individual to aquire safe affordale housing ( yes at a cost to tax payers initially) The individual pays a portion of their earnings for rent which increases as income increases. Once an individual is employed and housed they participate in commerce and that my friend keeps our Community alive. The average citizen takes for granted that they pay utiities, buy groceries and maintain their yards. Those things are gifts of daily learning in survival that we take for granted. Indeed there in something very enpowering about receiving a water bill in one's name after being in the position of walking 4 blocks to shower every day. I have never been in the position of being homeless, but I have seen the faces of those who have been after becoming estabished in homes of their own. The light in their eyes is blinding. I know there are those who take advantge of services and choose the vagrant life style, but too there are those who only need a little help to achieve a dream.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 7 months ago

i allways thought they should retool the jobforce(or is it workforce?) program.....I am sure there are political and activist entitys out there that would help pay the wages for a work program around here....clean up clinton lake or the highways....planting trees and help maintain the parks....on the flip side, if we actively jail panhandlers and then have them do this work as part of their sentancing, it would discourage the activity(if you can play a instrument or otherwise are trying to exchange a good or service, it is not panhandlin in my eyes) and allso we would get the coveted fist place in the meanest city race.

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