Here's a list of the 10 churches that have committed to provide overnight housing for homeless families that are part of Family Promise program, according to organizer Joe Reitz:
¢ First Baptist, 1330 Kasold Drive.
¢ Morning Star, 998 N. 1771 Road.
¢ Grace Evangelical Presbyterian, 3312 Calvin Drive.
¢ Heartland Community, 619 Vt.
¢ Victory Bible, 1942 Mass.
¢ Plymouth Congregational, 925 Vt.
¢ First Christian, 1000 Ky.
¢ First Southern Baptist, 4300 W. Sixth St.
¢ Clinton Parkway Assembly of God, 3200 Clinton Parkway.
¢ Corpus Christi Catholic, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway.
A nonprofit program to aid homeless families with children is hoping to win city approval to use a home in the Barker neighborhood as a day center.
Joe Reitz, a leader for the Lawrence branch of the Family Promise organization, said Wednesday that his group hopes to locate a day center at 1501 R.I., but recognizes he first will have to allay concerns of neighbors.
"I understand when you say homeless in a neighborhood that people are going to get frightened," Reitz said. "Once you get around these families, you realize it is not something to fear. It is something where you say 'wow.' These are just like other families. They just need some help."
Reitz hopes to start the program in November. He said the day center will be far different from the city's typical homeless shelters. The day center will not provide overnight housing, and it only will be used by homeless families with children who have been accepted into the Family Promise program.
"This will not be a drop-in place," Reitz said. "You won't be able to come and go as you please."
But neighbors surrounding the house do have concerns. Noah Musser, who lives in a home across the alley from the proposed site, said he's concerned about whether this is opening the neighborhood up to other activities.
"I think people are a bit scared that it may change over time from a day shelter to a night shelter or turn into a place just for the general homeless population," Musser said.
Reitz said there are no plans to use the house as a nighttime shelter. The Family Promise program uses churches as temporary overnight homeless shelters. When the program begins in November, Reitz hopes to have 13 churches that will agree to provide overnight housing for one week every three months.
Currently, Reitz has 10 churches that have committed to provide housing. The program will serve up to four families at any one time. Participants must pass a background check; people with a criminal history of abuse, addiction or violence are generally not accepted, Reitz said. The program also operates with a "zero tolerance" policy toward alcohol or drug use by participants.
The day center would be used from about 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. It would provide a place for participants to shower, do laundry, and use the Internet for job or housing searches. The center would be staffed by a paid director who would work individually with the participants on financial planning skills and other issues.
Reitz, a retired Kansas University School of Business leader, said that nationally, about 80 percent of participants have been successfully placed into housing within about two months of entering the Family Promise program.
City must approve
The project will have to win approval from the city. Lawrence city commissioners soon will consider a new set of regulations governing where homeless shelters can locate in the city. The new regulations, which already have been recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, also create the new category of homeless day center. Under the proposed regulations, the day center would have to receive a special use permit from the city commission.
The new regulations, however, also make it clear that churches or other buildings that house a nonprofit organization can serve as a small-scale homeless shelter, serving no more than four unrelated adults. Those small scale shelters would not have to receive a special use permit from the City Commission.
Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, said those new regulations are creating concerns among her group's membership. She said the regulations would allow virtually any building that houses a nonprofit to be turned into a small-scale homeless shelter without City Commission approval.
Reitz has invited neighbors around the Rhode Island home to a gathering tonight to answer questions about the proposed project.