Archive for Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Homeless shelter seeks zoning variance to make location change easier

February 26, 2008


Shelter leaders propose new location, rezoning

The search is on for a new site for the city's largest homeless shelter, and now leaders of the Lawrence Community Shelter are asking city commissioners for some help. Enlarge video

Efforts to find a new, less controversial home for a downtown homeless shelter are intensifying as Lawrence Community Shelter leaders plan to ask city commissioners for zoning help tonight.

Loring Henderson, executive director of the shelter at 214 W. 10th St., said the nonprofit wants to explore the possibility of relocating the shelter to a Lawrence industrial park or other industrially zoned area of the city. But city zoning regulations prohibit homeless shelters from being located in such areas.

Henderson is asking commissioners to start the process of changing the city's zoning law so that the shelter would have more potential sites to consider.

"We understand that a move is something that has to happen," said Henderson, who declined to discuss sites the shelter may be considering.

"Everyone wants us out of this building, and we want out of this building. There's no reluctance on our part to move."

Zoning options

But finding a location has been difficult. The shelter is looking for about 15,000 square feet of space that would allow the number of shelter beds to grow from 31 today to 50 to 75. In 2006 it sought to purchase a former nursing home building at 31st and Kasold, but the deal fell through after significant opposition arose from neighbors. Complaints from neighbors have been a major concern at the current site.

An industrial area might alleviate some of those concerns, said City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who has been advocating for a better location for the shelter.

"Typically an industrial area is not sitting right next to a residential area," Chestnut said. "That's clearly one of the challenges they have right now."

Shelter leaders, though, may not get everything they're seeking from the commission. Henderson and shelter attorney Price Banks are asking the commission to change the zoning law so that shelters are an approved use within all industrially zoned areas in the city. In other words, a shelter wouldn't need special city approval to locate within an industrial park.

But city staff members have suggested an alternative change. Staff members said the city's zoning regulations could be changed to allow homeless shelters to apply for a special-use permit within industrially zoned areas. Currently that is prohibited.

Chestnut said he thinks requiring a special-use permit is a must for a future shelter operation. The special-use permit allows the city to place specific conditions on the operations of the shelter, and the permit can be revoked if the shelter falls short of the agreed upon standards.

Industrial-zone benefits

Henderson said the idea of locating in an industrial zone is appealing on several fronts. Henderson said most industrial buildings have the single-level, wide-open spaces desired for a shelter.

Henderson said a new shelter also likely would need space to accommodate social service providers that want to locate inside the shelter. He's also optimistic that the shelter will need more space to expand the in-house job programs it offers to clients.

Shelter clients are manufacturing dog biscuits that are sold at the Lawrence Farmers Market and other locations. The shelter is seeking a retired business executive to volunteer as a business manager to help take that operation to a new level.

"We think that program is ripe for expansion," Henderson said.

Cost of expansion

Henderson declined to release cost estimates for a new shelter because it depends on whether the group builds new space or renovates an existing building. But he said shelter leaders are laying the groundwork for a capital campaign that could be launched once a site is found. He said a capital campaign, along with possible grants, would be the most likely funding source for a new shelter. He said it was unlikely that the City Commission would provide any significant funding for a shelter.

Chestnut said that was his sense as well.

"I think there are a lot of issues with the city getting involved in financing or owning that facility that would be problematic," Chestnut said.

The shelter has a special-use permit for its shelter at 214 W. 10th St. The permit expires in two years. Henderson said it is the shelter's goal to have found a new location by the end of the two-year period.

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Commissioners won't be taking final action on the shelter's request, but rather are being asked to direct the Planning Commission to begin the process to change the zoning code.


doc1 10 years, 3 months ago

No. keep what you have. Those jerks are already a burden to society. Give them a raft and send them down the Kansas River.

10 years, 3 months ago

"Typically an industrial area is not sitting right next to a residential area," Chestnut said. "That's clearly one of the challenges they have right now."

i don't know who you've been talking to Rob, but there are several spots in old east lawrence that are right next to industrial: 600 block of rhode island 800 block of pennsylvania 900 block of delaware 1200 block of oregon 1400 block of delaware

i thought it was already decided that spot zoning was not the answer?

leftylucky 10 years, 3 months ago

The area near 1300 Oregon or 1300 Delaware is what I've heard is being considered . The chaney huxtable complex. Not a good area for a homeless shelter. Too close to neighbors on 13th and 12th street. Don't move the problem to East Lawrence.

toefungus 10 years, 3 months ago

Use the Last Call building. Even the name fits the purpose.

supercowbellninja 10 years, 3 months ago

Uh... Maybe I'm missing something here, but the spot zoning seems like the best idea here. No one wants this establishment in their neighborhood for a wide variety of reasons.

I think people like "stain" should support a city ordinance that would put the shelter right in their home or yard if they feel so strongly about its placement and the injustices wrought upon the homeless.

rumor_man 10 years, 3 months ago

I hear that the city is thinking of spot zoning 842 W 21st Street for the perfect homeless shelter location. It would also use green archtitecture.

That would be cool.

J Good Good 10 years, 3 months ago

supercowbellninja - the point that you are missing is that in many neighborhoods, industrial is ACROSS the street from residential, and this is a blanket change effecting all of those places...

supercowbellninja 10 years, 3 months ago

Yes, but if a person already lives across the street from an industrial park, can a homeless shelter really drop property values much lower?

According to the article, there are only a handful of these industrial park places in the area, and the city is interested in case-by-case approval, so there would in theory be a burden of proof there that has to be met before any shelter gets built at any of them.

I'm just saying I'd rather see a limit or restriction placed on the shelter to be in places/areas in town that aren't exactly what we tout as areas for tourists to visit, instead of giving them free reign to move in to the masonic temple downtown, old nursing homes, etc. Maybe industrial parks aren't the answer, but there should be limits and restrictions on where a new one can be placed.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 3 months ago

Move them into the industrial areas so they can get work. There isn't anything for them to do downtown except panhandle and loaf. Give them a hand up - not a hand out.

stuckinlawrence 10 years, 3 months ago

Why not the old Food 4 Less building? It'd be close to the Workforce Center, they could get jobs. Plus, it's a good central location to catch the bus, & if they have children with them it's also fairly close to a couple different schools.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 3 months ago

The area near 1300 Oregon or 1300 Delaware is what I've heard is being considered . The chaney huxtable complex.

That doesn't make sense to me. It's a residential neighborhood so they'll be facing the same opposition there that they currently face. Plus the Chaney Huxtable complex is already occupied.

I think a work farm on the outskirts of the city would be the ideal solution. They can grow their own food, sell it at the Farmer's Market, learn how to provide for themselves, etc.

It has worked elsewhere:

RJ_Mettlehorst 10 years, 3 months ago

I hope Rob Chestnut is serious about not allowing this shelter near residential areas. The shelter population of the chronically homeless with all of their problems does not stay neatly contained within the shelter grounds.

I live near one of the light industrial sites being considered for the shelter. My industrial neighbors are quiet and clean. They have never followed me home, threatened me, pooped in my yard or used illegal drugs on my property. All of these have happened in the area of the current shelter.

These shelter residents aren't the ones who just need a chance to get their feet under them to rejoin society. These are the ones who have chronic, severe problems that do not respond to short-term assistance.

As a society, we do indeed need to step up and find a long-term solution for this situation. That solution is not a shelter that they can wander into and out of at will, taking their problems out into our neighborhoods. No neighborhood, not even the most caring or generous community, can safely handle this population.

"The Lawrence Community Shelter ... has become a center for working with the chronically homeless." Loring Henderson said.
United Way of Douglas County Press Release,

"...the causes of chronic homelessness (are) alcoholism, addiction, mental illness," said Loring Henderson, executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, 214 W. 10th St. January 9, 2008

Peter Zacharias, who owns a house at 10th and Ohio streets, said people in the neighborhood (near the LCS) had had homeless people follow them home, accost them and cause them to worry for their safety. Other neighborhood members who spoke at the commission meeting said they'd had problems with trespassing and defecation in yards and had seen people near the shelter using illegal drugs., April 18th, 2007

clyde_never_barks 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey hawkperch - stick 'em in that train station thing you are so excited about.

clyde_never_barks 10 years, 3 months ago

...or in those POW barracks you want to restore...yeah, that'd be great. Get to work, now.

SpiritTat 10 years, 3 months ago

Stain: THANK YOU. The most sensitive and accurate post about the realities that alot folks would much rather just not 'see.'

I hope they are able to find a place that allows for both opportunities (via a hopefully still viable transportation system by that time) as well as space.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

Relocating the shelter will not remove them from downtown. In fact their presence may become more prominent than ever with nowhere to hang out for awhile.

Downtown is where the money and food are located. Downtown is warmer than outlying neighborhoods. LPD can monitor there constant whereabouts in the downtown area.

The Allen Press building at 11th and New Hampshire seems like a good fit for the Lawrence Community Shelter. OR the Salvation Army.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 2 months ago

Looking for help at the day shelter is lost cause.I have gone there looking for help several times and not one person would leave the dominoes table or get their gangsta white coat and shoes dirty at any price. I havent looked for help there in over a year but the same people who wouldn't work last year were sitting in there today.One year later. I have no beef with the homeless population.None.I love the people and help whenever i can.Buy the bums a drink,maybe they'll find the pain that is necessary to take that first step toward a better way of life. But the dominoes crowd and the wouldbe pimps that wont get their bleach white shoes dirty deserve every bit of nothing they get.It makes no sense to me that a person who claims to want sobriety or to get on their feet but "can't find work" can somehow make it to the day shelter and the foodline right on time,with out fail,day after day after day.

Meatwad 10 years, 2 months ago

It seems like the homeless problem is getting worse and worse. It also seems like the shelter is just a big party place for them to hang out. Lawrence needs to not be an enabler to the homeless who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. They need to be helped out of homelessness. Homelessness needs to be less of a party in my opinion. I'm not talking about homeless families or people who are homeless for reasons other than alcohol or drugs. Those aren't the ones we see. The ones we see are the ones who are drunk or wasted on the streets harrassing passersby on every single block of downtown, using our city as their own public toilet. They are ruining our downtown, making it unsafe and very unpleasant. We as a city need to stop enabling them. Really. Helping them is not the same as enabling them. Helping them would mean getting them drug treatment, for many it would mean a secured treatment facililty or hospital-type of setting. Enabling them is giving them a party hangout, plenty of food, and everything they need to keep them homeless.

Meatwad 10 years, 2 months ago

Beds should be for homeless families only - for those who are truly trying to get back on their feet. For the homeless who are drunken or drug addicted, they should be provided shelter, but is it really in their best interest to make them so comfortable, or would it be more of an incentive for them to get help with their addiction if they weren't given beds, but had to sleep on floor mats?

Loretta James 10 years, 2 months ago

A lot of the homeless want that they would rather live on the street than pay rent with the money. its pay rent or buy beer most choose beer.

Rick Aldrich 10 years, 2 months ago

i nominate last calls building for a homeless shelter.

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