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.
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.
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.