Proponents of a plan to move the Lawrence Community Shelter to a new location on East 23rd Street are taking a smart step by scheduling a public forum to discuss their project.
Opposition has arisen to the plan to move the city’s primary homeless shelter to the site of the former Don’s Steak House at 2176 E. 23rd, and, at least in Lawrence, it’s almost always better to meet such opposition head-on than to try to bulldoze past it. Shelter leaders, along with architects and engineers will discuss the project with members of the public at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club, 1520 Haskell.
Shelter officials want to move the shelter because they say it has outgrown its current location at 10th and Kentucky. Almost any proposed site to relocate the shelter would draw opposition from someone. The site on East 23rd Street may not be the perfect location, but it seems better than most and certainly better than the current location wedged between a residential area and the downtown business district.
Nonetheless, East Lawrence residents are concerned about people from the shelter walking through their neighborhood to other parts of town. Other Lawrence residents wonder whether providing a larger shelter with more services will only attract more homeless people to the city.
Lawrence isn’t the only city that struggles with such questions. We have a humanitarian interest in helping people get back on their feet, but we realize that some of the people served by the shelter, because of mental illness, alcoholism or other problems, may remain homeless for extended periods. Balancing these interests isn’t easy.
These are questions that the shelter planners should address, and a public forum is a good way to do it. It will give shelter officials an opportunity to allay residents’ fears and convince opponents that the importance of the work the shelter does offsets any inconvenience the shelter poses to local residents.
It speaks well of Lawrence that it has so many residents who want to reach out and help those who find themselves without financial resources or a roof over their heads. Serving that need in a location and a manner that draws no criticism probably is impossible. Leaders of the Lawrence Community Shelter are committed to this project. Perhaps a public discussion will help get a larger segment of the community on board.