Archive for Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Promoters of a day center for homeless families in east Lawrence neighborhood seek city approval

A new program that hopes to help homeless families is creating some nervousness in parts of East Lawrence. The program would give homeless families with children a place to stay during the day, but some residents worry it will also open up their neighborhood to a wide range of homeless activities.

August 6, 2008


Project partners

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.

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1501 Rhode Island

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Discussion is under way into creating a day center to assist homeless families at 1501 R.I.

Hospitality networks

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.

Churches involved

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.


Steve Jacob 9 years, 9 months ago

Reading the website, that sounds like a pretty good group. The "Just Neighbors" group/part seems odd to me, almost scary.

WWoftheW 9 years, 9 months ago

Hawk;No more that 15 persons total in Type A. So 4 families and no more that 15 persons. The problem is by state statute day care only allows 10 and that is way Family Promise can not just set up shop.

WWoftheW 9 years, 9 months ago

I don't believe the issue is Family Promise. The issue is other non profits having the "by right" to set up a shelter in your neighborhood without ever going through the special use process and advising the city and the neighborhood that they are setting up a 4 family and no more than 15 people living in your neighborhood.The Type A shelter do not have to have a management plan and do not have to do what family promise is doing and that is saying no to drug additiced, abusive and so forth clientale. Family Promise also does back ground checks, but other non-profits would not have to do that.This is the issue that is the heart of the text amendment.

crazyleaflady 9 years, 9 months ago

Ive posted this at the other story on this, but I want to repeat this (after going to the neighborhood meeting tonight):This isn't about whether or not homeless people, individually or collectively, are worthy of help. This is about whether a day facility run by one trained person (but only 5 days /week; the center is open 7 ) and a group of well-meaning, minimally trained volunteers should be opened in a residential neighborhood. The program is well meaning and apparently effective, and the folks behind it quite passionate. But they have not thought through the practical issues associated with running such a facility in a residential neighborhood-many of those Family Promise has run are actually located in industrial areas, as the previous poster notes.This would not be a house; it would not be a "home"; it is a regulated day center that closes at 5 (at which point everyone's out and the security system goes on), after which the homeless families are shuttled to churches to sleep on cots. Most families, by FP's own statistics, find homes in 2 months. So there's nothing about this program that suggests that it is more appropriate for a primarily single-family neighborhood. The program is great and should be located in a mixed-zone area.I am annoyed that the issue was framed as accept this program or you hate / are afraid of homeless people. We were asked at the meeting at one point to 'open our hearts.' This is a great house; why not move a homeless family into it permanently or semi-permanently and let them actually be part of a very close-knit, diverse community? Perhaps as they were on the waitlist for permanent residence or for a Habitat house?I might add that no one associated with the program seemed to be taking notes at the meeting. I think they were very naive about what the implications of such a center might be in a residential neighborhood. None of them, of course, actually live in the neighborhood.

vega 9 years, 9 months ago

Bowhunter99 (Anonymous) says:"I think all churches in town should stop sending money & kids to far far away places in the name of Christianity and instead help the local folks.You don't have to go to Thailand to help someone: There are plenty of people that needs help right here."Just to add: keeping T may also help local folks in need

bunnyhoover 9 years, 9 months ago

If you have questions, go to the information meeting Prof. Reitz is holding. I think complete understanding of the project would quell most of the nervousness. This isn't just yet another "homeless shelter." The Rhode Island location isn't even going to be used as an overnight shelter at all, but a day center for these people to come to to learn skills, find a job or affordable housing. This is a bona fide program developed years ago that is working in numerous other places. Not a "hand out" but a "hand up" to borrow another poster's words. These are families with children, and the adults are screened for mental issues, criminal backgrounds, etc., and have demonstrated the desire to get back on their feet.Family Promise is part of the Interfaith Hospitality Networks - please see their site for more information about what they truly do and how they work and be sure to look at the number of communities this program is succeeding in:

pursegirl 9 years, 9 months ago

The newsreel shows the neighbor talking about his worry of "a series of strangers with no ties to the community". In reality, it would be families from our community.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 9 months ago

doc1: "I have a program to help the homeless. Its called the "get a job" program."Perhaps you're aware of the complementary offering-the "take a walk in somebody else's shoes" program. It's recommended that one take a looooooong walk.

grimpeur 9 years, 9 months ago

From the article: "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."Try 1501 Crossgate. Nice neighborhood. See how it goes over there. How about 1501 George Williams Way? Plenty of services in the area. No? Anybody ask at 1501 Tennessee? It's a whole neighborhood of transients! No? Maybe 1501 is not the right address, then.

kugrad 9 years, 9 months ago

A capacity of 14 people, plus the director, plus volunteers, plus anyone else who has to come by equals far more people that would typically reside in that home. The idea is not bad, the scale is a bit too large. Cut it in half; perhaps a maximum of 2 families and 8 people total, plus staff. Then it might fit into the neighborhood. Otherwise, it is like locating a business in a residential neighborhood. This program is not without options. In many other cities, their homes are located in industrial areas. There are many multi-use neighborhoods in Lawrence that could offer the same "homelike" feel as this residential neighborhood. I think they should pursue those options. Surely it would also be cheaper than renting this property, which as someone pointed out has, in fact, been overpriced (when a home doesn't sell in a year, it is overpriced). Rent a couple of apartment units or a home in a multiuse neighborhood.

doc1 9 years, 9 months ago

I have a program to help the homeless. Its called the "get a job" program.

50YearResident 9 years, 9 months ago

(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.)Has this project been thought out? (7a.m. to 5 p.m.) What time of the day or night are they going to shower and do laundry? What about transportation to and from work (if they get a job) and transportation to the Churches to sleep and eat? If they get a 4 to midnight job, will service be provided? It looks like a 24 hour operation 7 days a week at the very least. Please don't sugar coat it until after it is approved. Give us the true picture before we vote to approve this.

honestone 9 years, 9 months ago

No, No, NoThe neighbors should fight this with everything they can muster.NO, NO, NO

twaldaisy 9 years, 9 months ago

At least they are stricter than the wet shelter and actually help people get back on their feet.

twaldaisy 9 years, 9 months ago

Hey doc1 that is what the program is helping them do get a job and a roof over their head.

Quigly 9 years, 9 months ago

How about a car wash fixed up so the homeless can go through it OHHH NOOOOOO

Oracle_of_Rhode 9 years, 9 months ago

They're going to turn a very lovely Lawrence neighborhood into a homeless mecca. This idea stinks.

leftylucky 9 years, 9 months ago

After 5 they go where? Place next to a school, good thinking. If there are 10 churches involved why not have the families go to the churches to hang out for the day. The city gives free bus passes to the homeless they should be abe to get to any of the churches that have offered to help. The commission on homeless comes up with goofy ideas, and I'm sure that anyone on the commission has or would like to live next to a homeless shelter. Shirley Martin Smith should live next to one before she start harping to the City Commission about changing Zoing and special use permits. Who wants to live next of a homeless shelter? Keep these issues out of East Lawrence. Actually anyone sould live next a homeless shelter to see the nusiance that they become. If the homeless are so safe why does Plymouth have doors locked to the head start area?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 9 months ago

"Oh, a storm is threat'ning My very life, today If I don't get some shelter Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away..."

crazyleaflady 9 years, 9 months ago

If Family Promise has the resources to take over this building, why couldn't they make this a medium- to long-term residential site for a couple of families and provide assistance to those families while they are in residence? Then the kids could actually attend school, have neighbors and friends, and the families could be part of the neighborhood. As a member of this wonderful and friendly neighborhood, I am fairly certain most of my neighbors don't have a problem with homeless people but with the problems created by transience (short-term renters included). That, I suspect, is what Noah Musser meant by 'strangers with no ties to the community.' He meant 'community' in the very particular sense of 'neighborhood.' There are a range of income levels in the neighborhood, including, I believe, folks in Section 8 housing, but the majority are relatively permanent residents, and people choose this neighborhood in part for that reason.

Paul R Getto 9 years, 9 months ago

Got a mortgage on your house? Credit card debt? Most people in debt are about three paychecks away from the streets unless they have relatives who will let the family live in the front (of back) room. I admire the churches and agencies for at least trying.

revshackleford 9 years, 9 months ago

This is no doubt a well-intentioned and necessary program. A couple of things to note, though:One, I walk by 1501 RI every day and this house has been on the market for sale for a looooooong time. I wonder why (overpriced, terrible condition...)? I have seen squirrels running in and out of the holes in the siding.Two, the article doesn't say that the house will not become an overnight shelter; the spokesman says there are not plans for it to become an overnight shelter--big difference.Three, there is only one supervisor on hand? Who will be watching the kids while the parent(s) are doing laundry, looking for work and housing on-line, etc.? Maybe they could staff it, at least partially, with interns from KUs social welfare school.Third, is there an age limit for the "children?" Will there be seventeen year old kids hanging out on the porch? Are clients going to be locked in during the day, which would seem to make the house more like a min. security correctional facility than a day shelter?I plan to attend the neighborhood meeting tonight; it should be interesting.(If it matters, I am a 'rev' to the same degree as is 'rev. horton heat)

tonytiger 9 years, 9 months ago

"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."How does this proposed regulation make it easier? What regulation prevents it from happening today?

crazyleaflady 9 years, 9 months ago

The website suggests that the transport is by van to and from churches, schools, and jobs. It seems like a nice, well-meaning program that has had success and depends a lot on volunteers and good feeling. That's great and I support it. But I think a 'day center' like this would be more appropriate in a mixed-use zone and not in an all-residential neighborhood. That's why we have zoning. I don't want the house to be turned into a McDonald's either.

Deb Engstrom 9 years, 9 months ago

I live in a neighborhood that has evolved into almost all KU students and we experience most of the problems that people fear will occur at this house including 17 year olds hanging out on the porch, loud parties, and drunks coming in my house thinking it's theirs. I also have had people who could not stay at the Salvation Army or LCS for whatever reason stay in my house or in tents and a shed in my yard. No one in the neighborhood even knew they were there and if they did, they didn't complain. Whenever people hear the word "homeless" the alarms go off. Maybe too much information is being shared. Just do it.

revshackleford 9 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, I referred to Mr. Reitz as Mr. Seitz; my alphabet soup was off a letter.

revshackleford 9 years, 9 months ago

I attended the meeting. My primary impression is that this sounds like a good program but that the people promoting it here, though their hearts are certainly in the right place, haven't thoroughly thought this out and considered its impact on the neighborhood. It seems that what they expected from this neighborhood meeting was for everyone to welcome the center, no questions asked. The main reason I think this is that, as far as I could see, none of the people advocating the issue appeared to be taking any notes listing the many valid concerns expressed by neighbors at the meeting. Isn't Mr. Seitz a former business professor? Doesn't he know how to properly conduct a meeting? Someone from their side should have been taking minutes; the fact that nobody appeared to be indicates disregard for neighborhood concerns. If someone was writing notes and I just didn't see it, I apologize.Also, lest the people of the neighborhood all be branded as NIMBYs, someone did ask Mr. Seitz if he had considered locating the center in his neighborhood. No, he said, he lives in the country out by Eudora. I've lived in the country, and the people I've known either lived in the country because they grew up there or because they have made an active decision to live in peace and quiet without a lot of close neighbors. You have to admit, it smells a little funny that Mr. Seitz lives out in the country but is advocating moving 14 people plus a director plus volunteers into a home in what is already a fairly dense neighborhood, i.e. few people have large yards or an abundance of space between houses.While I've never really been homeless (depending on your definition), I did grow up in a single parent household where my mom worked full time and there were times when we were on government assistance, so I don't think I'm living on another planet as far as this issue goes. I just don't know that this house is the right place to be day-sheltering four families. Perhaps two?

kmatt 9 years, 9 months ago

I agree with crazyleaflady.I was at the meeting last night as well. Frankly, it's a great program that clearly does meaningful work; however, it's a horrible idea to place a day center as they described into a residential neighborhood.I bought the house right across the street from the proposed day center, and quite frankly, had there been a day center when my house was on the market I wouldn't have been interested in looking at it in the first place. Although I'm fully aware everybody is not going to take that same mindset, I am also aware that I am not alone. I was born and raised in Lawrence and I'm obviously still here. I'm sure some people will take a few of my statements as me not being that nice of a guy, and that's fine.I purchased my house not just because it was a great structure that I could use my remodeling skills to improve it while making it into a nice first home; but I also bought into the neighborhood. Putting a day center in 1501 R.I., regardless of how many "out of this world great statistics" Reitz wanted throw our way in the meeting last night, will certainly change the dynamics of what has come off to me in the past year and a half as an amazing neighborhood to live.Another thing that seemed pretty disheartening last night was that no other locations seemed to be "on the table" as a back-up plan if they cannot use the 1501 location. Although Reitz said they wanted to be sure the neighbors approved of the house for the day center use, it seemed as though it was the City Commission's decision they were eagerly waiting for, not the response from the neighbors.To the neighbors: I heard from someone after the meeting that he thought a petition was going to be coming around. Who do I need to get a hold of to sign this?

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