Archive for Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Proposal to open homeless day center in Barker neighborhood abandoned

A proposal to build a homeless day center at 1501 Rhode Island St. has been scrapped.

September 9, 2008


A proposal to open a homeless day center in the Barker neighborhood has been scrapped, but neighborhood groups continue to express concern that other homeless projects will end up in single-family areas.

Joe Reitz, the leader of a new Lawrence faith-based program to provide temporary housing to homeless families, said on Tuesday that his group was no longer considering a house at 1501 R.I. as the possible site of a day center for homeless families and children.

"We're not looking to fight that fight," Reitz said at a meeting of the Community Commission on Homelessness.

The Barker site appeared to be facing a steeper hill as several neighbors had registered strong concerns about the project.

Reitz, a retired leader of the Kansas University School of Business, said his group would continue to look for another site for the day center, but he said it would not seek to locate it in a single-family zoning district.

Reitz said he does want to look at areas zoned for apartments - RM-32 zoning districts - as a possible location for the day center. The center would be part of the national Family Promise program that exclusively serves homeless families with children. Reitz said the day center ideally would be near downtown so that residents could have easy access to the city's public transportation hub.

Residents near the 15th and Rhode Island site said they were pleased with the decision because it would help promote stability in their neighborhood. But other neighborhood leaders from across the community expressed concern that the city is not yet taking enough steps to ensure that single-family areas are protected from new homeless projects.

"A lot of the ideas to protect the neighborhood's interests seem pretty flimsy," said Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Community Commission on Homelessness, neighborhood leaders, planners and homeless service advocates debated several issues. They included:

¢ Whether churches and other nonprofit groups should be allowed to use their buildings to operate small overnight homeless shelters. The planning staff has recommended that only churches be allowed to operate the shelters, which have been proposed as part of Reitz's Family Promise program. The Community Commission on Homelessness is recommending that both churches and other charitable institutions be allowed to operate the shelters.

¢ Whether day centers, like the one proposed by Reitz, should be required to receive a special use permit from the City Commission. The planning staff has recommended that a day center be required to receive a special permit from the City Commission, and that the centers only be allowed to locate in non-residential areas or mixed use office areas. But the homeless commission is advocating that a special use permit not be required for nonresidential areas. Instead, the day center would need only administrative approval from city staff.

¢ Whether larger-scale homeless shelters - those housing more than 15 people - should be a certain number of feet away from single-family homes. The Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods has lobbied that homeless shelters be at least 250 feet away from single-family homes. The homeless commission, however, rejected that suggestion after homeless service advocates said such a distance requirement would make it very difficult to find a new location for the Lawrence Community Shelter, which is looking to move from its downtown location.

"If we're required to have a 250 foot buffer distance, it basically would exclude us from the city," said shelter director Loring Henderson, who said he would rather address the buffer issue through fencing, landscaping and other forms of screening.

Ultimately, city commissioners will decide the issue. But first the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider the issues at its Sept. 22 meeting. City commissioners will receive the recommendations from the Planning Commission and the homeless commission and then debate the issue later this fall.


easmith14 9 years, 7 months ago

Food for thought have definitely given us all food for thought

Haiku_Cuckoo 9 years, 7 months ago

It should come as no surprise that a quick search in the White Pages reveals that neither Joe Reitz nor Loring Henderson live anywhere near the areas where they want to put their homeless shelters. Why not put it in your own neighborhoods, guys? Certainly you don't have the "not-n-my-backyard" attitude, right? ....or do you?

lawrencechick 9 years, 7 months ago

Thank you. Lawrence has done it's fair share for the homeless, enough is enough. Why are we encouraging people who have no money to live in the most expensive city in the state ?

mammaweeks3 9 years, 7 months ago

I agree with D_W. Not all homeless people or even most homeless people are dangerous or drunks. I have cared for many in Kansas City and have seen people of all ages, all races and all levels of education. It is a shame that they get labeled due to the exceptions in the population. Most of the crimes committed by homeless people are against other homeless people. It amazes me that with the huge amount of homeless people in Lawrence that there are not sufficient places for them to stay and to become rehabilitated. It is simply sad. There are wonderful places in Kansas City such as City Union Mission that house hundreds of homeless men and families. The facilities are great and they are helping this population become rehabilitated so they are able to live independently again. Just as D_W stated anyone can become homeless in their lifetime, you do not have to be uneducated, an alcoholic, a criminal or a drug user. Many of those that are not homeless fit into those categories and no one is saying that they should be ran out of Lawrence on the next empty bus.

leftylucky 9 years, 7 months ago

The above story from 6 news is using tape of the building at 13th and Oregon not 1501 Rhode Island. Sunflower was told of this on the 6 news broadcast and they said they would fix it for the 10 news cast. Poor journalism. Quite misleading, because that is a spot that the homeless shelter has proposed to move and they are still looking at that site as a possible shelter. How much money has been spent by the city at the Kentucky street shelter since its inception. The commission on homeless should not be dictating the codes to the planning commission as none of the members are impartial.

Daniel Waters 9 years, 7 months ago

Please don't let your perception of the homeless and poor be completely based on the the drunk guy you see passed out on the corner. It's also moms and dads and children who ran into some tough situations and end up without a home. The security that we feel sitting in our homes at night can quickly be taken away by a lost job or unsurmountable medical bill. The government and tax payers shouldn't have to bear all of the responsibility and cost for the homeless. Joe Reitz and the participating churches are stepping up and trying to do something about this problem rather than sitting around and waiting for the city to do more. Thank you to them and everyone else in this city who ask "how can I help out?" instead of "why should I help out?"

absolutelyridiculous 9 years, 7 months ago

Gee, I'd hoped we wouldn't hang onto some outdated stigma for the down and out. To all my Lawrence neighbors, let's not adopt a "not in my neighborhood" attitude on THIS project, please.

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