They work with Lawrence’s homeless population every day, and outreach workers on Thursday night presented a grim picture of a crisis facing the homeless in our community.
“The shelter has a lottery system,” said David Tucker, a homeless outreach worker with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. “They pull names out of a hat and if your name isn’t called, you don’t have a place to stay.”
Homeless advocates said it’s a problem that’s going to turn into a crisis when the Salvation Army closes its shelter May 1.
A recent count estimated there are more than 300 homeless people living in Lawrence, and come May 1, there will be only 31 beds available.
Outreach workers shared stories from the front line during a panel discussion Thursday evening put on by the Coalition on Homeless Concerns.
“We could use about three more full-time case managers,” Lawrence Community Shelter Case Worker Sally Bartlett said. “We need a much bigger space and more staff.”
Bartlett told the crowd she has a caseload of 70 people and with just 31 beds, the shelter is turning away people every night.
Homeless advocates have said one possible solution to the dire shortage of shelter space in the city is creating a campsite where homeless residents can legally sleep.
“It’s an intermediate solution for people to have somewhere to go where they’re not going to be arrested or fined up to $1,000,” said Christina Holt, a member of the Coalition on Homeless Concerns. “In light of the emergency we’re facing in Lawrence with lack of shelter space, I feel like it’s the only conscionable thing to do.”
Several current city commissioners and candidates were on hand for the meeting, all of whom agreed the problem needs to be addressed.
The Coalition on Homeless Concerns is always looking for more input. The group meets the second Tuesday of every month at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.