Archive for Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Local officials question survey results showing decrease in homeless population

Lawrence statistic especially dramatic, but officials urge caution in interpreting findings

David Tucker walks along the along the Kansas River, trying to ID people who might be living out in the cold. A study released Wednesday said the homeless population of Kansas was shrinking.

David Tucker walks along the along the Kansas River, trying to ID people who might be living out in the cold. A study released Wednesday said the homeless population of Kansas was shrinking.

June 10, 2009


— A report released Wednesday shows a startling decrease in the number of homeless people in Kansas, especially in Lawrence, but community officials say the statistics need further review.

And Gov. Mark Parkinson said despite the reports’ findings “we must remain committed to ensuring that no one should have to sleep on the streets or go hungry.”

Nearly 600 volunteers in 36 counties participated in the Kansas Point-in-Time project, surveying those perceived to be homeless on Jan. 28 and questioning them on where they spent the last night and their status.

The report represents a snapshot of homelessness. An estimated 1,811 people in Kansas were homeless that night, down from 2,111 in 2007, which is a 14 percent drop, the report said.

The percentage decrease in the number of homeless people was much greater in Lawrence, dropping from 318 in a 2008 count to 112. The city of Lawrence does an annual count, while a statewide count is only done once every two years.

Margene Swarts, assistant director of planning and development services for the city of Lawrence, and who has been involved in the homeless counts, said she doubted there has been such a significant decrease in the number of homeless in Douglas County.

“It would be unwise for people to compare this count with previous counts,” Swarts said.

The 2009 count represented the first time the survey was coordinated statewide, officials said. But even so, the report frequently cautions about its findings.

“Some counties expended considerable effort to include everyone who might possibly have been homeless, while others concentrated their focus on those more closely matching the ‘typical’ picture of homeless individuals,” the report said.

Different methodologies probably led to such a great disparity in results, Swarts said.

Erika Dvorske, president and chief executive of the United Way of Douglas County, which helped coordinate the count with other United Way organizations, agreed.

“I’m always going to be cautious about any statistics,” Dvorske said. “Some folks who are homeless simply don’t want to be counted. It’s likely that it is higher,” she said of the number reported in the study.

Other findings of the statewide study found:

• One in five homeless people in Kansas are children under age 18.

• Nearly 200 people were staying in places not meant for habitation, such as alleyways, parks and river banks.

• About one in three homeless respondents said they had a serious mental illness.

Swarts said advocates for homeless people will be analyzing the report in the coming weeks. The 2009 study will be used as a benchmark for future reports, she said.

She said while she doesn’t believe there has actually been such a significant decrease in the number of homeless people -- especially in the current economic downturn -- progress across the state is being made in finding transitional housing for homeless people.

The report comes as homeless advocates grapple with ensuring there are enough places for homeless people to seek shelter in Lawrence.

Earlier this month, the Salvation Army in Lawrence closed its overnight shelter in favor of working on helping homeless people find transitional housing.

A temporary shelter has been set up at the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, 221 W. 10th St., at the First Christian Church.


Jan Brocker 8 years, 10 months ago

Maybe this time they didn't count the people that pretend to be homeless?

Stuart Evans 8 years, 10 months ago

maybe they realized that the state & local governments weren't giving free hand outs and moved on. don't build it and they will leave!

Danimal 8 years, 10 months ago

We did have a pretty cold winter in '07-'08... I could believe that there are less homeless now.

lawrencechick 8 years, 10 months ago

There was quite a group downtown yesterday. Gross looking...don't think they showered for a month. Not one of them looked over 30 , so these were not down on their luck Vietnam Vets....just bums.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 10 months ago

So, lawrencechick, how do you know they were homeless? Quite a group, eh? Ten, fifteen, gross looking? There have been several wars since Vietnam. Did you question these people to determine that they were in fact homeless. Just asking. Just because you don't like the way someone looks doesn't really mean all that much.

lawrencechick 8 years, 10 months ago

I don't like the way they looked and I don't like the way they acted so save your sermon, I've lived long enough to take off my rose colored glasses. To see true poverty you need to travel outside of the US. There is no reason for a twenty something to look like that in Lawrence, KS unless of course, it is to draw attention to themself. And no, this crowd of men and women were not vets of any wars...

skinny 8 years, 10 months ago

Well good then. That means we don't need a second shelter in Lawrence now.

Now if we could only get rid of the ones hanging out downtown running off all the shoppers thus cutting down on the tax base.

ridinthefence 8 years, 10 months ago

Does anyone really believe that the homeless people want a job? Come on. Why? Why do something from 9-5 m-f that requires effort, when you can bum money and drink liquor til the shelter opens? And dont tell me none of them can get jobs, because I truly believe if someone wants to work, they can work. lawrencechick is right, I've seen the groups downtown! Usually they are at 10th & Kentucky!!

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

I can see none of you who have posted comments have any understanding of being homeless. You think of homeless as useless people who want to be in that situation. So, I am thinking you have not put much thought into what your saying. Can you consider how many homeless have mental disabilities to the point that they can not keep gainful employment? Also, what about the people who are homeless as the result of physical injuries that keep them from employment? I was homeless after spending 8 months in a hospital. I am not a wretch as you have described a homeless person to be. I am no longer homeless, and you would never think 3 years ago I was. So, do you think the homeless (who can not care for themselves) can just apply for disability? This is another issue in itself. In the state of Kansas, it takes around 1,020 days, on average, to receive disability social security. How many years is that of no income? Homeless people are not simply looking for "hand-outs". There is a cycle that starts when one becomes homeless. The cycle can not be broken without the help of our community. Many in our community are receiving grants for education to better their lives. Could this be considered the same concept as receiving a "hand-out. As a taxpayer, I am contributing to these educational grants and I do not perceive them as "hand-outs." I contribute to my community to see the livelihood of everyone (homeless or otherwise) excel. As formerly homeless myself, I now donate time with the homeless to show that the cycle of homelessness can be broken. However, there was a time in my life when I needed shelter and assistance from my community. I am grateful for the help I received.

Thinking_Out_Loud 8 years, 10 months ago

ridinthefence, you can also choose to truly believe that the Earth is flat if you want. journeymanstation has it exactly right.


journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

I am guessing ridin, skinny, chic,autie, arunorml, jan you truly have nothing constructive to say. I am sure if I asked you to put up, or shut up. You wouldn't fallow threw. How about this for an idea. You think you know what homelessness is about? I will pay for you to be flown to a different city of my choice. I will have you flown back in a months time. During that month you cannot have an id of any sort. Just the clothes on your back, and no phones ect.. Also there would be nobody you could have wire, or send you any money. You would have to start with nothing, Lets find out what you could do in a month. I will bet you would have something else to say about the homeless. If your up for it email me Also it has to be done in january, or February. You tell me after going threw that homeless want to be homeless.

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

Of course if you take me up on the offer. You will have to sign a waver. In case of injury,or other potential harms that could come to you while doing this experiment. I am not liable for you in anyway than getting you home from a pre arranged spot decided on before you leave. I can garnet you would have both away there, and back. on prearranged date, and time.

Tom McCune 8 years, 10 months ago

I have done a little work with the homeless on occasion, and it seems to me there are 5 classes of homeless:

  1. good people with problems
  2. drunks
  3. dope fiends
  4. mental cases
  5. narcissists

You can't help 2 or 3 unless they first kick the habit, however it works for them. The politically correct orthodoxy notwithstanding, you can't help most of the 4s. Most of them never really get much better, regardless of treatment. There is no point in trying to help the 5s, since they think it is far more entertaining to game any system than to actually be responsible and work for a living.

That leaves the 1s. I have known some good organizations that did very good screening and helped these people a lot. (Although it can be difficult to separate the 1s from the 5s.)

The problem with too many "shelter" organizations is that they want to help everybody and just end up being magnets for the 2s, 3s, 4s, and even 5s.

pace 8 years, 10 months ago

One in five are children, one in three have had a serious mental problem. This really doesn't add up. The survey seems odd.

ridinthefence 8 years, 10 months ago

THANK YOU Newell_Post, you said what most of us already expected, AND you have experience with it. What can anyone say to that, really? The 1's in the community should and could get more help if the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5's werent ruining it for them. No, I have never been homeless but if i was I would be terrified of most of the people in "my group". Do you not understand that most dont want help they want a handout? Do you not understand that there are people that just cant be helped?

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

Do you really think a addict, or an alcoholic wants to drink? That really isn't a choice for them. Its long since been proven to be a genetic. Drug addiction, and alcoholism almost exactly mirror mentally ill people with there symptoms. Really this is become a blog about what most of you can not understand. I put an offer out there for people who do not understand. When after doing so they could have come back with understanding, and compassion. To learn to actually be human.

motocross 8 years, 10 months ago


Bravo!! I agree with you 100%, these people do not know what poverty is unless traveling out of your own backyard. I've been a missionary for some time now and the "homeless" in the U.S. are pampered compared to outside our country. Most of them here in Lawrence are 20 somethings who think it's cool to not shower, beg for change, find some crappy instrument they can't even play..... Get a JOB, MAN UP, Look at yourself, wake up. There are a few who do need help, but for the most, it's pathetic.

skinny 8 years, 10 months ago

journeymanstation, I have worked with the homeless now for over 22 years here in Lawrence on a daily basis. Of that 22 years there are five or six here in Lawrence that are still homeless because they want to be. They have been offered help over the years and even family members have come to Lawrence to try and get them to go home with them. They don't want the help. About 70 present aren't even from Lawrence, they just come here because of the free hand outs and shelter. About 50 present of Lawrence homeless have committed crimes while in Lawrence. Mostly because they are drug addicts or alcoholics either stealing, drinking in public, urinating in public, or trespassing. So, unless you have worked with the homeless journeymanstation you have no idea what you are talking about! 95 present of Lawrence homeless are homeless because they don’t want to help themselves. Now, if Lawrence would just close all but one shelter and only allow the women and children in 24/7 Lawrence would be a much better place to live!

motocross 8 years, 10 months ago

journeymanstation, you're answers are completely ridiculous! "it's all genentic!" please!!!! My grandfather and father BOTH were hardcore alcohololics and I CHOSE not to be. I CHOSE, yes, CHOSE!!! to be the way I am. What about all the dirty punks who are in their 20's just wanting a free ride and never contributing to society. weak.... weak..... Oh and my brother was homeless for 2 yrs in Chicago, now he has a job and is worth something. He even admits it was pure laziness and most of the people around him were the same.

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

I know you haven't been down to the shelter to donate your time motocross. The average is easily over 40 there. Yes things are different over seas. I have seen the worst in poverty in africa ect... I can't tell you what it was like going threw Rwanda during the butchering there. I do know people need help every where. Why would you shun the homeless here in the states. If your a missionary Christian or of another religion. I'm sure it doesn't say Help your fellow man except the ones on your street.

motocross 8 years, 10 months ago

I HAVEN"T!!! I donate every friday evening to the LIFE MERCY shelter's in Johnson county! What do you do might I ask, besides bragging about who much you do for mankind.

motocross 8 years, 10 months ago

I HELP who really need the help. Where in Rwanda have you been might I ask.
Reason being, that I was there for 2 months and know the area somewhat.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 10 months ago

I seriously doubt that the numbers are down. Not here in toontown anyway. I am really glad that I am not a part of that population anymore. The competition for jingle is fierce!

I took a stroll yesterday to see who and where and geezus, there were panhandlers on all four corners!

The Indians had one corner sewn up, the grunge crowd with dog had another, and on two opposite corners sat individuals flying their signs. Although the natives weren't panhandling much because they seemed to have achieved their objective known as a "traveler".

Noone was hurting anybody, shoppers seemed to be enjoying themselves and downtown was bustling on beautiful spring day in Lawrence, Kansas.

I am intrigued by the Rwanda and other outside comparisons to the homeless here. What is the point? Homeless here are posers by comparison or we don't need to address the problem until we do resemble those places? Please explain.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 10 months ago

I was in Rwanda, too!!!

Actually, it was a movie with that guy from Oceans 11.

Actually... it was the box. It was on the shelf at the video store and I read the back of it. I got Earnest Goes to Jail instead.

fairplay 8 years, 10 months ago

Will someone please take journeymanstation up on his offer to pay for someone to be homeless for a month? He gets to pick the might be Minnieapplis, or Shikawgo, or even Filludelfea. OMG, maybe you'll get to fly Sowf West and go to Alberkirky, or Fenicks. It'd be just like the Edy Merphy/ Dan Ackroide move Trading Spases. Journeymanstation...take the money you were going to spend on someone in an attempt to prove your point and put it toward some GED classes instead! Or at the very least, consider upgrading to a system with a spell/grammar check.
Thanks for the laugh...that was priceless. I got your point...homeless people really do have it tough, they waste their money on plane tickets and travel instead of a dictionary.

motocross 8 years, 10 months ago

hahahahahahaha bravo fairplay hahaahhaha tears of joy!

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 10 months ago

Don't get too smug because you have a job and home today. Don't get to thinking you can't lose it tomorrow. There is nothing special about any one of us that shields us from hard times. How many times should someone be forgiven, seven times? No, seventy times seven. Please, when someone makes a spelling or a grammar error, that does not invalidate what they are writing. Enough of this grade school level mockery.

Andrew Phillips 8 years, 10 months ago

"About one in three homeless respondents said they had a serious mental illness"...And this is not the first study to conclude that there are high levels of mental illness among the homeless, and some of the studies that have concluded this have not been based on a self report from the homeless individual but rather on a professional assessment of their mental health.

This country is neglecting the people with mental health issues who cannot afford to get help

I do not believe that this gives any homeless person, or even a mentally ill homeless person the right to irresponsible behavior, but I think it should inspire us to approach people with mental illness with greater kindness because we appreciate the mental struggles they deal with

How is it fair to prejudice and berate other people because they have been saddled with an extra burden (mental illness)? and even if others are able to escape mental illness (although perhaps because they have the financial/personal resources that many homeless lack) it does not mean that we have the right to turn our back on our fellow citizens that are due the human right to a healthy existence

Paul R Getto 8 years, 10 months ago

"Don't get too smug because you have a job and home today. Don't get to thinking you can't lose it tomorrow."

Excellent point. If you and your family are deep in debt, you are 2-6 months from being homeless if your income dries up and you don't have several months' salary in the bank. The 'lucky' homeless will live on Aunt Jenny's couch for a bit, but they are still homeless. BTW: The great Essene TEACHER was also homeless during much of his ministry. I don't recall him beating up on the unfortunate, with words or fists.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 10 months ago

That's kind of a cool fort in the picture.

Shardwurm 8 years, 10 months ago

Did you see the structure in the picture? The taxes on that must be crazy. No wonder they're moving on.

spkup 8 years, 10 months ago

You people make me sick and you have no idea what your talking about. I know people with KU bacholar degrees that cannot get a job in Lawrence, even at Mcdonald's, but you expect someone without an address or the means to look presentable at an interview, or w/out an education (the list goes on) to be able to get one. This is a college town, every place in town pays $6 an hr and only hires part time help on average, try finding rent for less than $680 a mnth in this town!?! SRS is a joke and the daycare rate here is $160 a week on average (most places have extensive waiting lists at that). Everyone cares so much about the starving and homless people in 3rd world countrys, but no one wants to help all the starving and homeless people right here. No, all we want to do is judge and criticize. Amazing.

skinny 8 years, 10 months ago

If my 20 year old son can make 3,000 a month mowing grass I think anybody can. My point being anybody can get a job if they want. The don't want too.

sinverguenza 8 years, 10 months ago

What time are all you people getting "harassed" by panhandlers downtown? This is a common theme from posters on this forum, yet I've been downtown 5 of the last 7 nights between the hours of 4 p.m. - midnight and I've not been harassed once.

And in the 7 years I've been around Lawrence, I've probably been asked for change a dozen times, and only felt "harassed" once - by a couple of twenty-somethings who had a cell phone and therefore definitely weren't worthy of my change.

Are you walking downtown with your "Ask me for money" shirts and caps on? That could be the problem.

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

I have a higher education than most. I have a masters, and almost done with a doctrine. I also do not ask for hand outs. Like most students. I pay for my education myself. I was also homeless after a 8 month hospitalization. So I do have an idea what it is to be homeless fairplay. I will bet you are trying to get your undergrad fairplay, and your comments really sound like you feel you need to express yourself in something you have no idea about. Would you like to take me up on the offer. I never said I would pay someone to be homeless. I said I would pay for the flight to another city, and then the flight back. If you could actually read you would have understood fairplay.

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

I did get help during the time I was homeless. I am grateful it was available. All I'm asking is if you don't know what the hell your talking about. Why not actually go out, and do it try to understand. Maybe you even might learn some compassion.

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

No my masters wasn't english lit. Try to get a career in english lit. after graduating. My masters is in science, and working on jurist doctrine. I am also busy building a hedge against inflation. I will bet I pay more in taxes now then you will make in the next 10 years opp. So if I am to busy to pay attention to my grammar. I am writing this between buys So I'm sorry if you can't get around my typing. Somebody got to pay for your grants. Also pay for your student loans when you default. Those are government backed. Are you receiving a hand-out right now? Buy receiving grants, and student loans. Yet its not okay for someone to get a hand up when there at the bottom?

journeymanstation 8 years, 10 months ago

oop its not easy theses days getting better leverage on hedging for inflation. About a month ago it was a lot easier. I wonder if you have enough intelligence to have considered doing so as well. I would guess any extra money you get is spent on the next case of pbr.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 8 years, 10 months ago

"I know people with KU bacholar degrees that cannot get a job in Lawrence, even at Mcdonald's"

Nonsense. If they can't even get hired at McDonald's they aren't trying hard enough.

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