Archive for Sunday, October 12, 2008

Homeless may find refuge in churches

City commission to decide whether buildings can house families

Soon, churches across the city may be able to become overnight homeless shelters.

October 12, 2008


Churches that would serve as overnight shelters

Each church would serve as a shelter one week out of every three months.

¢ 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.¢ St. Margaret's Episcopal, 5700 W. Sixth St.¢ BridgePointe Community, 601 W. 29th Terrace.

Soon, a dozen or more churches in Lawrence may have the ability to convert themselves into short-term, overnight homeless shelters.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider a new set of regulations that would allow churches citywide to use their buildings to house up to four homeless families.

A dozen churches are ready to start serving as shelters as part of new program called Family Promise.

"We're ready to go," said Joe Reitz, a leader of the Lawrence branch of the Family Promise organization. "I want to have this program open before Thanksgiving."

But the program won't get off the ground unless commissioners approve the new set of regulations. Lawrence-Douglas County Planning commissioners - on a 6-3 vote - are recommending approval of the new regulations.

Neighborhood groups have expressed concerns that the regulations could create problems in single-family neighborhoods.

"We're glad that the Planning Commission is requiring neighborhoods to be notified, but we're still not sure how much say the neighborhoods will have," said Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods.

The proposed regulations are multifaceted. Here's a look at several points.

¢ Any church would be allowed to use a portion of its building as an overnight homeless shelter. But there are restrictions. The churches could serve only homeless families with children. At no point could there be more than 15 homeless individuals being served. The shelter could be open only from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. At least two staff members would be on the site at all times. A church could not serve as a homeless shelter for more than 15 nights per quarter of a year. Each church would meet with the neighborhood at least once per year, and create a good-neighbor policy.

¢ The regulations also would create a new category of homeless day centers. The day centers are prohibited from locating in single family neighborhoods. They can locate in areas zoned for intensive apartment development, but must first receive a special-use permit from city commissioners. The centers can locate without the special-use permit on property zoned for industrial, commercial or residential office uses. Neighbors had lobbied that a special-use permit be required for all areas. Like the homeless shelters, the day centers can only serve homeless families with children.

Both the shelters and the day centers are needed for the Family Promise program to move forward, Reitz said. Reitz has 12 churches ready to start serving as a shelter for one week every three months. He said once the regulations are approved, the organization plans to announce a site for a new homeless day center.

Originally, the organization had targeted a site in the Barker Neighborhood, but dropped that plan after opposition arose from neighbors. Reitz said none of the three sites being considered was in a residential area. He declined to provide other details about the sites the organization is considering.

Reitz, a retired professor from the Kansas University School of Business, said he hopes commissioners will move the regulations forward. He said he had asked homeless outreach workers to do a one-day count of how many children are without a home or permanent lodging. For one day in September, the total was 111 children, he said.

"There are so many of these kids who are sleeping in cars or cheap motels or being moved from one family to another," Reitz said. "And the numbers are only going to grow with this economic situation."

Lawrence's Family Promise Program would be part of a national organization. The program requires all participants to undergo a criminal background check, and to abstain from drug or alcohol usage.

Neighbors largely have said they do not object to the Family Promise program, but have expressed concerns that other organizations could use the new regulations to create objectionable programs.


Ragingbear 9 years, 8 months ago

Informed, if you actually were informed, you would understand that this is an attempt at de-centralizing the homeless population in town, which will make things worse as the churches struggle to keep up with the flood of people left out in the cold when the city closes down the Salvation Army shelter and the Community Shelter because "the churches have it covered".

Maddy Griffin 9 years, 8 months ago

Bear you are absolutely right , the number of homeless in this town probably will quadruple in the next 2 years.Read much about the state of the economy???Too many families in this country live paycheck to paycheck and even a minor illness could wipe them out financially.

Ragingbear 9 years, 8 months ago

Here we go, the start of the Lawrence homeless explosion. Expect to see the numbers quadruple over the next 2 years.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

Dismas: "The Catholic Church, despite its many institutional problems, remains the largest charitable organization in the world... so get over yourself...."I suppose the apparent point of contention is what is meant by that nebulous term, "The Catholic Church." I have never associated those who truly serve with that "institution" ( even if those servants somehow self-identify with that perceived entity ) .I greatly value and respect the work Mother Teresa, who self-sacrificingly served the poorest of the Earth.They can bury the Pope in his Popemobile, for all I care.( Auction off that pointy hat and robe on eBay-talk about needing to get over oneself-so that someone can add it to their Nazi paraphernalia collection. )

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

So... has Vatican City opened its doors to the poor of the Earth?

kugrad 9 years, 8 months ago

Family Promise seeks to help homeless FAMILIES. Not drunken bums. People who were one paycheck away from homelessness, then didn't get that paycheck. Many of the working poor can become homeless, then unemployed. It is difficult to find work when homeless - it is difficult just to make yourself presentable for an interview. The people helped by Family Promise have children. A large percentage of Lawrence's homeless are children - especially in current times. So, please try to rethink your opinions about who is homeless and how they got there. Don't think about the alcoholics who hang downtown, the mentally ill who have little chance of employment and no safety net, and other adults who may or may not choose their path. Think instead of children whose parents care for them yet are unable to meet their basic needs due to circumstances beyond their control. People who are not afraid of work - who want stability - and just need a helping hand. I too would like to have seen churches oppose an immoral war, but the fact that they didn't doesn't lessen the need of the homeless families.

Bob Forer 9 years, 8 months ago

Some Christians amaze me. They sit on their hands during an immoral war, but they'll open their churchs to a bunch of drunken bums for a little extra credit towards heaven.

Dismas 9 years, 8 months ago

As a matter of fact, the Vatican has indeed run assistance programs from its doors, for centuries, including a daily soup kitchen, and several overnight shelters throughout Rome. The Catholic Church, despite its many institutional problems, remains the largest charitable organization in the world. And quite a number of Christians--Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants alike--have opposed the immoral war, so get over yourself, put your shoulder to the wheel, and join the many of good will who wish to make a difference.

coolmom 9 years, 8 months ago

jeez, whats the deal? they are trying to help families with children. they are not trying to help singles or anyone else and isnt that what churches are supposed to do, come to the help of their fellow humans not just sit back and watch. the economy is in tatters peoples retirements and savings are null and a large percentage owe more on their homes than they are worth. wake up! anyone could end up homeless and in need of help. close down the shelters? heck by the end of this we may need more everywhere.

infinity 9 years, 8 months ago

After reading these comments I'm quite honestly disturbed. The blatant disregard for the well-being of other people and the utter refusal to empathize with their situation is shocking to say the least. While I would agree with Hawk that the proposal opperates from a view of heteronormativity in which only the people who fall under traditional notions of "family" can recieve aid, and that such a view is ultimately discriminatory and exclusionary, I certainly think we should do more to help homeless people, or at the very least respect them. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness - it's a shame people in our community don't seem to realize that.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

Dismas: "I was simply answering your question about the Vatican and its charitable mission. You then responded with hateful bigotry."( BTW, Dismas, is that name some sort of play on Christmas? Just curious. )Hey, actually I appreciated your reply. For a moment, I almost took off on the whole "largest charitable organization" thang... largest entity? ... largest contributor? ... both? ... but then... well, what can I say... the devil made me do it. Sometimes I even read back over my posts and wonder, "Did I actually write that? What the hell's the matter with me?" ( Possession, no doubt. )I'm really neither hateful nor a bigot, tho' I do seem to hold a deep-seated contempt for that most organized of religions. You know, the pomp and pageantry, all the graven images, conspicuous wealth, hypocrisy, priests abusing little boys... need I go on? ( Jesus would be turning over tables! )But I really don't disparage the truly faithful, so long as they're not just playing Paul's get-out-of-hell-free card. Far from denying that irrational faithfulness, my world view is structured around it. ( I would submit that everyone's is, but what do I know.... ) Dismas: "I am glad to know that your righteousness surpasses that of the priests and scribes.""Righteousness"... had to look that up... not in my vernacular. What can I say? I've never met the "priests and scribes" and I am but an imperfect vessel. Can't really even envision any sort of continuum to which "surpasses" would apply.... Dismas: "God bless you, my obviously hurting friend. I prayed for you at Mass this afternoon. Peace be with you.""Hurting"... hmm... sometimes ( often? ) we see in others that which is within ourselves. Not really hurting so much, myself. ( "I get up... I get down...." ) But the thought that I was in your thoughts is... warming. And, see, now I've written you a little prayer. Peace be with you, as it is with me.Above all, thanks for taking time to address my irreverence, twice! ( I'm really not being disrespectful; I am irreverent... at least when it come to those organized expressions of religion. ) The key phrase is: "thanks for taking time." It gave me an opportunity to take some, as well.

Dismas 9 years, 8 months ago

"They can bury the Pope in his Popemobile, for all I care.""(Auction off that pointy hat and robe on eBay-talk about needing to get over oneself-so that someone can add it to their Nazi paraphernalia collection.)"About what I expected to be your reaction. We are all well aware of the institution's problems. I was simply answering your question about the Vatican and its charitable mission. You then responded with hateful bigotry.I am glad to know that your righteousness surpasses that of the priests and scribes.God bless you, my obviously hurting friend. I prayed for you at Mass this afternoon. Peace be with you.

Bob Forer 9 years, 8 months ago

"Better than doing nothing while condemning others."Believe me. I do a lot more than enabling a few drunks so I can feel better about myself.

Bob Forer 9 years, 8 months ago

Kugrad, its funny how the HOmeless Coalition never mentions the percentage of family homeless to single-person homeless. I am all for helping the families. But surmise most of the homeless on the bum downtown are not panhandling for food for their young ones.

twinetowngirl 9 years, 8 months ago

I hope that all of you people who complain about helping families who are down and out never become the ones who need the help yourselves. I pity you. One day it could be you.

angel4dennis 9 years, 8 months ago

I am glad to see Lawrence step up and show their compassionate side. Lawrence for years has been known for the "college town" a bunch of hippies and know it alls with sorority/fraternity hoodlams. Not my opinion, just the opinions of some of the people I know that live there. Anyway, homelessness effects everyone. Imagine if you were one of the children who didn't have a bed or a home, or food, clothes, or toys. These children do grow up and if they can be shown companssion and a better way of life right now, they stand a better chance of breaking out of the same situations their parents are in. Thank you to the churches that are willing to open their doors to the "neediest" of souls and not just the ones that come around on Sundays or Holidays.

Dismas 9 years, 8 months ago

Tangential:I do understand, and I'm sorry that I came on a bit reactionary and was rather uncharitable myself. Believe me, there are many, many issues with being a Catholic which don't always go down so easily, especially when the "institution" sells out the "message" (and this has happened many times, which, you are right, would cause the Master to turn over quite a few tables). I think the way we survive is to see the good and give thanks, the good will of many folks, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In the end, the hyposcrisy and abuse will be seen for what it is, but the good will live on, having made a difference.Let's walk together, friend. Know that I appreciate the integrity you demand, as I demand it, too.By the way, Dismas is the name tradition gives to the "good" thief who died on his own cross next to Jesus, begging, "Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom." One of the lowly and despised, a condemned man, who actually got what it was all about, while the establishment looked on and scoffed.

humblecommentator 9 years, 8 months ago

This is good and legitimate work for churches.Neighbors do have a right and reason to be concerned, however.

Mixolydian 9 years, 8 months ago

To read the comments it would be easy to conclude that Lawrence is a mean spiteful petty place to live. It's not particular to Lawrence. Just read any city newspaper that allows comments on the stories in the internet edition (to boost ad revenues) and you'll find sad miserable little people crapping all over every positive story of someone or some group's attempt to help out another person.You want to see the health of a city...go out and vounteer.You want to improve your own outlook on life...go out and volunteer.

WHY 9 years, 8 months ago

We should send homeless people south for the winter. Good for them. Better for us.

dcnusong 9 years, 8 months ago

My name is Dennis Carnahan. I pastor a church in town that is in support of Family Promise. If you closely read the article you will see the limitations on those who are accepted or not aren't representatives of the churches or Family Promise, they are in fact being instituted by the City Council who are doing their best to balance neighborhood safety, zoning and other potential problems that can arise when any new program is being instituted within a community. I hope many people benefit from this program, families and volunteers alike!

miniflavors 9 years, 8 months ago

I think they should put a center right up TOP of the police Dept. where the old jail use to be. And let the homeless work for the city for board, food maybe? Or maybe make a couple or 3 apts up there for the families and maybe the dads could work for the city as well and earn some extra so that they may get a place later. Maybe make it a 6 mo. apt. for FREE....well they could work for the city. and they could get pay as well.? Just a thought !There are sure alot of whinners whinning about the homeless. Ever thought about helping?

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