Why is it that the city of Lawrence seems to go out of its way to make it difficult for individuals, or companies, who have been welcomed with open arms in other cities, to become a part of this community?
For years, Lawrence has been known in the retail community as one of the nation’s most difficult cities in which to locate a new facility. Lawrence residents have a reputation for behaving as if they live in an elite community and thinking it is a rare privilege for any company to locate here.
Currently, officials of the nationally recognized Family Promise program are engaged in a tussle with city officials, some residents and/or neighborhood groups who want to force Family Promise to jump through various regulatory hoops and perhaps make major changes in the program before being authorized to operate in Lawrence.
The program, which has been operating successfully in 140 first-class cities across the country, recruits churches to provide housing on a rotating basis for homeless families who are interviewed and prescreened. So far, 12 Lawrence churches have volunteered to provide housing for families for a week at a time as part of the program.
Church members help with various needs such as food and transportation. Adults are assisted in seeking jobs and have agreed, after finding employment, to save 80 percent of their earnings for the family to use after completing its rotation among participating churches.
It is understandable that city officials want to be careful not to open the door to unintended problems by approving certain programs. At the same time, why not have the starting point be “Let’s see how we can help you with this worthy effort.” Unfortunately, there seems to be far too many cases in which Lawrence takes exactly the opposite approach.
Family Promise has been highly successful in other cities. Its goal is laudable, and those organizing the program here should be thanked and congratulated.
Let’s hope the Family Promise effort in Lawrence turns out to be a big success, one that is used as a model for other cities in a collective effort to do something positive and concrete to attack the issue of homeless families in this country.