A piece of county-owned property near 13th and Massachusetts streets has been targeted as a possible site for a temporary homeless shelter, city commissioners learned at their meeting Tuesday night.
The Lawrence Community Shelter is exploring a plan with Douglas County to use a vacant church sanctuary that is adjacent to the Douglas County Public Works offices, 1242 Mass., to house up to 40 people who could become displaced once The Salvation Army closes its homeless shelter.
The Salvation Army previously announced it would close its homeless shelter at 10th and New Hampshire streets on May 1. But in another piece of new information, commissioners were told on Tuesday that The Salvation Army would now wait until June 1 to close its shelter.
“In talking with the Community Shelter, we felt like it would help with their process,” said Capt. Wesley Dalberg, leader of The Salvation Army’s Lawrence operations. “We want to give them more time to find that temporary spot.”
Loring Henderson, director of the Community Shelter, declined to discuss the specifics of the 13th and Massachusetts street proposal on Tuesday. He said he wanted to first present the idea to the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association before publicizing the details.
But city staff members did confirm that the city has received an application for a special use permit for the 13th and Massachusetts site. The shelter would occupy a former church sanctuary that is adjacent to the current Douglas County Public Works offices.
The shelter only would be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. All daytime activities would continue to be conducted at the Community Shelter’s main location at 10th and Kentucky streets.
Henderson did confirm that the temporary shelter would be operated much like the current Salvation Army shelter. That shelter only accepts guests who are sober, and Henderson said that would be the policy for the temporary shelter also. The Community Shelter’s main location will continue to accept people who are inebriated.
The 13th and Massachusetts street proposal will have to win two rounds of public approval, Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said. The project will need the typical land use approvals from City Hall, but it also will need to win approval from the Douglas County Commission because the county owns the property.
“County commissioners have said they are receptive to hearing the idea, but they haven’t said they would support it,” Weinaug said.
Weinaug said he expects the temporary shelter could be in use for about two years, while the Community Shelter seeks a new permanent location to combine the two operations.
Henderson told commissioners that he’s looking for a location to house a permanent facility, and was getting close to submitting a “letter of intent” to do a deal for a property.
He declined to identify the property, and also said it was premature to say that a deal could be struck. He told commissioners that he had submitted letters of intent on two other pieces of property only to see the deals ultimately fall through.
“We just get close, and then something doesn’t work out,” Henderson said.