Archive for Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Shelter notes progress

Fewer complaints recorded with daytime no-drinking policy in place

February 6, 2007


A new policy prohibiting intoxicated people from using the Lawrence Community Shelter during the day has meant fewer neighborhood complaints, according to the homeless shelter's annual report.

Director Loring Henderson confirmed Monday that the shelter had a new policy that does not allow people who are clearly drunk or high to use its daytime drop-in center services.

"We were just spending too much of our time on too few people," Henderson said. "We were just sort of dealing with situations instead of substantially dealing with someone's case goals."

The shelter, 214 W. 10th St., continues to remain an "open shelter" at night, meaning it does not automatically turn people away who are drunk or high. The shelter opened in 2003, in part, because the city's other homeless shelter, operated by The Salvation Army, had begun requiring occupants to pass a breathalyzer test.

'Better control'

Henderson said the new policy - which doesn't require a breathalyzer test but rather relies on staff discretion - was implemented in late 2006.

"In many ways, we are getting better control of the situation," Henderson said. "We feel good about where the shelter is going, as tough as it is."

Phil Hemphill, who lives next to the shelter, said he's seen improvement, although he still thinks there is room for more.

"Trespassing on my property probably has decreased by about half," Hemphill said. "But it is still about 10 to 15 people per day. But that's a lot less than it was, and at least that is some movement forward. But that isn't something they did to be a good neighbor. They did that basically for themselves."

Hemphill, who has been a frequent critic of the shelter's operations, said he thought the shelter could do more to control the behavior of its clients when they are off shelter property.

Henderson said the shelter was trying to be responsive to neighborhood concerns by creating a policy that puts in writing what is expected of the shelter.

Neighborhood complaints about Lawrence Community Shelter are down this year

City leaders credit a new policy in effect since September for the improvements in the Lawrence Community Shelter. Enlarge video

Rest of report

Other points in the shelter's annual report include:

¢ Efforts to find a new location for the shelter continue.

"Right now, I would characterize it as slow but not dormant," Henderson said of the search process. "I'm looking at buildings and keeping my ears open."

The report estimates that a new shelter would cost about $2.75 million to build and equip.

¢ Two new positions at the shelter would significantly improve service and likely help address neighborhood concerns. The report listed a full-time monitor to observe and control activities outside the shelter as its top personnel need. It estimates the position would cost $30,000 per year, plus benefits. The report also lists a need for an additional part-time night and weekend monitor. The estimated cost for that position is $22,000 plus benefits.

¢ The shelter staff found housing for 27 people and jobs for 21 people during the last year. The jobs total, Henderson said, does not include part-time work that some pick up for a day or two during construction season.

"Those are actually steady jobs that were found," Henderson said.

He said he expected both numbers to go up this year because the city provided funding for two additional case managers through a Bert Nash program that works with the homeless. Those manager did not get started until the last half of 2006, Henderson said.

¢ The report did not provide a total number of people who used the shelter last year. Henderson, however, said 376 separate people had signed in at the shelter during the last year, but not all were homeless. Some were "precariously housed," such as living with a friend, but continued to use the drop-in center for some services.

¢ Shelter staff members made 216 calls to police or emergency medical workers for assistance. Police calls ran the gamut, including reports of fighting in the alley, drinking on the property and trespassing.

City commissioners will formally receive the report at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. They are not expected to take any action on the report.

Instead, a hearing to consider renewal of the shelter's annual city-issued operating permit has been set for March 28 at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. The City Commission is expected to hear the permit renewal request at its April 17 meeting.


Bassetlover 8 years, 8 months ago

Kudos to Loring Henderson for all the improvements he and his staff have tried so hard to accomplish the past year. Yes, there is still room for improvement, as there is in any type of shelter setting, but the progress noted here is noteworthy and reflects his desire to be a better neighbor and assist his clients in the best way possible.

Nate Poell 8 years, 8 months ago

Seconded, Bassetlover. Loring himself is a real asset to the community, and the fact that he and his staff work under difficult conditions providing services to the less fortunate is noteworthy.

jafs 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree, but 10 to 15 people a day trespassing on neighbors' property is unacceptable.

BJ 8 years, 8 months ago

10 to 15 people trespassing on neighbor's property is unacceptable. So is pooping in neigbor's yards. So is threatening neighbors. So is staff having to call the police 216 times (mind you, these do not include others calling the police). So is cruelty to animals on the LCS property. So is . . . .

Now you can't use the daytime services if you're drunk or high, but please come back tonight.

Unfortunately not much has changed for the neighborhood or downtown. We still have the same mess. The mentally ill and the truly homeless are still not being helped and fall through the cracks.

Hemphill is right; they are "improving" for themeselves. They are scared of their own clients, or guests as they call them.

And when a friend of mine asked a couple of the "homeless" (they always hang out in front of LCS) if they wanted to make a few bucks shoveling some snow a couple of weeks ago, she got yelled at and told to "go where the sun don't shine". And those are people that the city throws money at?

Rhoen 8 years, 8 months ago

Both Mr. Henderson and Mr. Hemphill are to be commended - The former for his unceasing efforts on behalf of those whom many in Lawrence think of as unworthy of the resources being expended on them and the latter for his patience and tolerance in what must be a truly hideous experience living in his own home!

It seems, though, that the availability of services to the obviously drunk, drugged people should come with some conditions. Perhaps offering AA / NA meetings on the premises and requiring that facility-users attend one or two of those a week. Or asking that some indication be given by the drunk and / or drugged person that he or she has even a slight intention to make some effort move out of that life-style.

An open-door policy without conditions creates a spa-like atmosphere for people who have no desire to become productive, are very happy to be a drain on the resources of the community, and are a threat to the ongoing availability of this shelter to those who do have hope for change.

Adrienne Sanders 8 years, 8 months ago

I'd be curious to know, how many of the people who found jobs and/or housing were still employed/ not homeless 6 months or a year later. Is anybody keeping track of such a thing?

Nate Poell 8 years, 8 months ago

Rhoen, I agree that Mr. Hemphill also should be commended for having the patience of a saint. But I have to ask, have you even visited the shelter? It is anything but a "spa-like" atmosphere.

meadowbreeze 8 years, 8 months ago

Sleeping on a two inch mat in a 9x10 room with three other people hardly constitutes a spa. 4 men = 600+ pounds of flesh. If a common mutt weighs 30 pounds that would be 20 mutts. If your bedroom is larger than 9x10 I'm happy for you. Now put 20 mutts in that space and tell me that you wouldn't have the SPCA knocking at your door. Or if you don't like dogs and have a king size bed invite 3 homeless folks to join you tonight.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 8 months ago

The only things spa-like in the place is the humidity which is generated by toe jamb.This statement by rhoen shines as an example of blind hatred and ignorance that those opposed to the shelter have,so stfu!! That being said,I have no easy answers to the problem.the last time I set foot in there my self I was over come by the futile atmosphere.The is no positive influence,no plan of action and every one seems to accept the fact that this is there plight in life.With a smile.An occasional derilict telling me how cool native people are while chewing on his tongue from too much...something. No accountablility for unacceptable behavior such as telling a potential employer to go to hell,turning their noses up to a free meal and describing it with the "F" word.No recourse for negative attitudes.No reason to get up and be about something.Just freebies and more freebies to be fought over and horded by volunteers. But,imagine what the city would be like without the shelter.Petty theft and strongarmed robberies would be rampant i would guess.Dont start with the conceal carry rants,I have seen the result of cc and it aint pretty.Somebody will lose. My point is,the shelter is the only thing the city has for an alternative for those people.Like it or not they arent going anywhere soon so unless you have a better answer which holds any realism than I would suggest you go there and give your input on how they can make a change for the better.

Stephen 8 years, 8 months ago

I think you should wait to reserve judgment until the weather is a bit more, oh how do you say "drinker friendly" then the circus shall return with all the drunkin clowns, blinking lights, come one come all

Rhoen 8 years, 8 months ago

Totally wrong about "blind hatred...", GeekInTopeka. I have been a supporter of and contributor to the Center from the time the property was acquired and renovations began.

The "spa" reference was probably not clear, though. COMPARED TO the ambience of the alleys, underpasses, and riverbank, the facility is four-star. And the cost to the clients certainly can't be beat.

Even if not all addictions can be overcome, some can - IF that is the goal and IF effort is made.

My question was whether offering a condition-free shelter might not simply be "enabling" those who prefer their addictions to the effort of overcoming them, but also creating a hazard to the potential recovery of those clients who "are sick and tired of being sick and tired."

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