Archive for Friday, March 27, 2009

Homeless advocates say crisis imminent

Outreach workers and community leaders gathered Thursday night to discuss what they consider a crisis facing Lawrence homeless.

March 27, 2009


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.


pissedinlawrence 9 years, 3 months ago

Hey I work 40 hours a week living paycheck to paycheck and my rent is going up next month. Can I just go pitch a tent in some park and live there for free? Please please? I hope they do this, think of all the new drinking buddies I will make! Fun times! In the city of Lawrence we are super kool to the homeless!

skinny 9 years, 3 months ago

Not our problem. Send them on their way!!

jafs 9 years, 3 months ago


If you really think being homeless is such a good deal, you can always give it a try.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 3 months ago

We still have the mT buses. They would make good shelters.

Maddy Griffin 9 years, 3 months ago

It always is when people start talking about the homeless. Some people think it's their own fault, while others realize that more and more of us are living paycheck to paycheck-one payday away from homelessness. My biggest concern is for the children. No child should have to live like that.

honestone 9 years, 3 months ago

Why does there seem to be a proportionately larger homeless population here then anywhere else?

50YearResident 9 years, 3 months ago

Dear Homeless, Avoid the crisis, leave town now! Don't wait till the very last day and don't say you were not warned of the situation ahead of time.

Ceallach 9 years, 3 months ago

With predictions of heavy snow this will be a difficult weekend for people without a home.

tellthetruth 9 years, 3 months ago

The only way I would support using any of my hard earned money to shelter the homeless is if they give something back in return. Let's come up with a real solution to this problem. The things I am hearing will only make the problem worse and attract more homeless. They need to spend the day doing community service work- cleaning parks etc. If they do that they get a bed and they get fed. This will give them work experience and hopefully move them onto getting gainful employment. If they are so mentally unstable that they can not pick-up trash in the park they should not be on the streets of our town and need to be sent to the mental hospital for help. We can give them a bus pass so transportation won't be an issue. I am all for supporting people who want to help themselves and are down on their luck but not the lazy a** drunks that want a free handout.

Tony Kisner 9 years, 3 months ago

What a perfect business model. This crisis is no different than if a pest control company unleashed termites on a neighborhood and then offered to help you with your crisis.

Boog like to compare our city to other college towns like Madison WI, of course the U of W has twice as many students and is the State Capital. What if we compared our homeless situation to Manhattan, Emporia, Hays or Pittsburg? Can we look to these communities for answers? We could ask the mayor of Salina to come here and advise us on how they deal with the homeless.

The Salvation Army closing may have been its effectiveness. I read many times how they had empty beds while the other shelter had long lines. What is the difference?

Is it about helping or feeling better about yourself? Who has the addiction problem?

lovenhaight 9 years, 3 months ago

If people had a better shelter, they might be able to spend time working toward improving their situation rather than worrying about where they are going to sleep that night. Mental hospitals aren't a great solution for a lot of people, there are a lot of places that aren't really conducive to fostering mental health. Many of them just become a place to stick people who have problems or are socially undesirable.

For people who constantly berate the homeless...I will never understand how you lack compassion or a sense of humanity. Sure, there are some people who fit the stereotypical profile, but the majority are not those people. I wonder how many of you could survive if you lost your home. Add to that trauma the judgment of people who feel innately superior...not a whole lot of fun.

tellthetruth 9 years, 3 months ago

The difference between the Salvation Army and the Shelter is that the Salvation Army won't take drunks and people on drugs. The Shelter takes anyone. That's why they have so many problems i.e. the police being called there on a daily basis. Talk about a drain on our local resources. It costs the city $75/day when we have to take one of their patrons to jail.

gusto2002 9 years, 3 months ago

A homeless encampment is will attract more homeless. I'm all for helping someone out who's down on their luck but they need to do something in return - community service work would be a great start. But carving out 5-10 acres and making it the next Woodstock is the crime increase.....

HermioneElliott 9 years, 3 months ago

lovenhaight Thank you for your comment. These are human beings we are talking about here. Some are bad some are good. It is such a complex situation. I know there are some workers who really hate their jobs and hate people who don't "have" to work. Well, I have a solution. Just go to the shelter and offer to give up your job to someone there. Then they can be as miserable as you are, and you can be happy and carefree.

TheOriginalCA 9 years, 3 months ago

As the father of a severely mentally ill child, I worry about the large percentage of the homeless who are mentally ill. This is a segement of the homeless population who truly can't help it that they are homeless. Families of these people have often tried to convince their mentally ill homeless relative to stay at their home or assist them and the mentally ill often refuse family assistance. Many of these people lack the mental capacity to make important decisions that directly impact their basic safety and well being. Inmany of these cases there is nothing that can legally be done to force the relative to accept or acquire assistance. This is just one segement of a diverse set of reasons why people end up homeless. We have done things totally backwards in this country for many generations in regards to mental health. Our current ways arae totally reactive and not proactive. It is much more expensive socially and financially to continue this way. There is too much violence in society and too many people end up incarcerated. If there is anything that is needing of stimulus funds, it is these early intervention kinds of programs. Schools have been doing better at early intervention and identifying children who are at risk and helping parents to acquire needed services for their children. Many of these parents deny that their child has this risk out of fear of the stigma of mental health challenges. The end goal needs to be to not only reduce homelessness, but to increase productivity for these people, reduce the violence, reduce the incarceration rate, and improve the overall quality of life. A large part of the problem though is that psychiatric medecine is light years behind the rest of medical science. For centuries the mentally ill were locked up and the key thrown away. That attitude has slowly improved over time but the reactive approach still exists. It is time to be proactive and identify these things early on.

OK, off the soap box now...

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 3 months ago

A homeless camp? I wonder if Christina Holt would offer her back yard as a possible location?

BrianR 9 years, 3 months ago

I also can't understand the negative comments. If you don't think you can become homeless, you are wrong. People in this economy have gone from having millions to having nothing. Your complaining doesn't pass the "there but for the grace of God go I" test.

HermioneElliott 9 years, 3 months ago

I have great sympathy for the homeless and I am happy to see the new comments. TheOriginalCA we need to hear from people like you. It puts a new face to the problem. I am not about to invite one of the homeless to live in my home or my back yard. There are excellent reasons for not opening the door to strangers. They need professional help. What about the huge tent city in Sacramento? Maybe we could use that as a modal?

TheOriginalCA 9 years, 3 months ago

Thanks HermioneElliott.

I also invite everyone in here to read John Grisham's book "The Street Lawyer". That book really opened my eyes. Don't let the SOB's who give the homeless a bad name impact your perception of the reality of the issue.

Ceallach 9 years, 3 months ago

Isn't the Sacramento tent city the one Gov Arnold okayed to be torn down?

Danimal 9 years, 3 months ago

We should require the homeless shelters in Lawrence to only admit people from Douglas County. I don't know if it's legal, but in the interim before the legal challenges we could run out all the out of town homeless people that are scumming up our town.

walkingonwater 9 years, 3 months ago

By the way, I attended the event, guess who did not show up. Seven of the eight city commission candidates were there, with just one missing. For a PRICE, I will tell you one candidate BANKS on not needing to attend this kind of forum.

honestone 9 years, 3 months ago

Helping the truly helpless is good. Providing a camping spot for the hopeless is stupid. I know few people that wouldn't want to help a homeless family but setting up a campground for the wasted is crazy. A good plan would include helping those that want to help themselves and showing everyone else the door. The Lawrence economy cannot support itself much less the perpetually homeless

Kyle Reed 9 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't it seem like being homeless would be a bit of a crisis already? Does it only become one when the city no longer has room to take care of you?

Bob Forer 9 years, 3 months ago

This is exactly what we need--a crisis. Once all the vagrants, bums and druggies from across the country find out Lawrence is not such a great place to stake out their bum roots, they'll move on and we can concentrate on helping those who truly are simply down on their luck and need helping hand to becoming self-sufficient again.

Cassie Powell 9 years, 3 months ago

ok, let the hate mail start coming my way...

As a person that was homeless for almost a year. who has now been employed for over 28 months and on section 8 for 30 months. I feel I have room to speak.

Lawrence has work if you want to look and apply. It may not be your ideal job, it may not pay great, but anyone can apply for and if you comply with program requirements get a home via section 8. even if you don't have a job, they can get you into housing (you will be required to volunteer 20 hours a week to a participating agency). Pelathe may have shut down, the food and financial assistance section, but they still offer up to 24 months of emergancy housing. However there are "rules" and criteria to qualify.

Douglas county lake is free to camp... why would they need anywhere else free to camp?????????? Certain sites on the "off" side of clinton have free and reduced camping during certain times of year.

I truly agree that if a person/s is willing to help themselves, then yes by all means we should help them. But I am sorry, when they are smoking a marlboro, drinking a miller and begging me for food money, I am inclined to spit in their face! don't buy the smoke or drink and get bread and bologna!!!!!

Regardless of the reason for a person currently being homeless, there are several resources in lawrence available to get you out of that situation if you WANT to. key word is WANT...

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 3 months ago

"bennyoates (Anonymous) says… Whether she would or wouldn't has nothing to do with whether she's right or wrong about this issue."

Agreed. Can you please point out where you found any sort of suggest regarding if she was right or wrong in my post? Ah, as I thought, you didn't read it - you just reflexively wanted to pick a fight. I just find it amusing that "homeless advocates" typically want to park the homeless in someone else's neighborhood using someone else's money.

MIke Mallory 9 years, 3 months ago


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