Leaders of the Lawrence Community Shelter will meet with members of the public to discuss the proposed new shelter at the location of the former Don's Steakhouse, 2176 E. 23rd Street.
The forum will be at the Boys and Girls Club offices, 1520 Haskell, and LJWorld.com reporter Chad Lawhorn will be at the forum and blogging live on LJWorld.com.
Loring Henderson, director of the current downtown shelter, will answer questions about how the new shelter would operate and architects and engineers will answer questions about the site.
Check back here at 7:30 p.m. for coverage of the forum.
Hi. This is Journal-World Reporter Chad Lawhorn. The forum here at the Boys & Girls Club is about to get started. I'll try to provide you a gist of the conversation through this blog. I apologize up front for any grammatical errors, as this article will not have the benefit of being edited before it goes online. Also it may not be possible to identify all the speakers by name because all may not give their names.
7:34: As we get started, the room is full. About 70 people are here at the moment. Dan Sabatini of Lawrence-based Sabatini Architects begins to go over the layout of the site. Major points include:
• Main entry would be on the east side of the building.
• Fencing will be all around the property.
• There is an outdoor activity area that is adjacent to the building. Only can be accessed from the interior of the building.
7:39 Michelle Mueller of Sabatini Architects discusses the design. She said the building is designed with idea of control and separation. She said that security cameras will be up to cover the outside portions of the property. Other major points include:
• Distinct levels for emergency shelter residents, transitional shelter residents, and residents who are families.
7:42 Mueller continues
• Separate areas for men and women who are in the transitional program. Sleeping area equipped with bunk beds.
• Emergency sleeping area will have room for about 25 people.
At this point, I'm going to take a short break from blogging in order to write a short story that will appear on 6News tonight at 10 p.m. The blog will resume shortly.
7:51 I'm back. Loring Henderson, the shelter director is explaining how the system operates. He said there are rules that must be followed at the shelter. "We are an open shelter. there are rules to follow, and if you don't follow them, we don't want you there." Henderson said people can be banned from the shelter.
7:52: Henderson continues. He also said that residents of the shelter are given chores to do on a regular basis at the shelter. He said the shelter has more than 100 volunteers who work at the shelter at various times. "I want folks to understand that we try to build in accountability for people who are at the shelter. We give them a place to stay but they have to meet with a case manager within 48 hours."
Said that people who come to shelter are in various conditions. He said there are four programs at shelter: Housing, jobs, benefits and intervention.
• benefits: some people don't have birth certificates or state IDs. "It is very difficult to even rent an apartment without an ID."
• housing: Efforts to help people get into housing. Can include submitting application to Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority. Helping residents search for housing.
• jobs. Includes one-one-one job counseling for residents. Also helps residents deal with issues that come up at a job. "Often times socialization is a major issue to helping people keep a job." Has a Good Dog Biscuits and Treats program. Has received a grant to start a small business that manufactures dog biscuits that sell at the Farmers Market and several local grocery stores. Have five people who are working as part of this program part time. "It promises to be a pretty exciting small business." "We want to do more of that but absoultely don't have an inch of room to do that."
7:59 Don Huggins, a LCS board member. Talks about intervention program. Shelter won't turn people away simply because they are drunk or have been using drugs that night. "We think they are better off in the shelter. They are more of a danger to themselves if they are out on the street." Says many staff members of shelter have first-hand experience with drug and alcohol intervention programs. The shelter has started an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter.
8:01 Question and answer session begins. Members of public are asked to keep comments to 3 minutes. each.
A property owner across from K-10. I'm kind of excited about the shelter coming here. This is the best location I've heard talked about." What is the process if somebody is banned from the shelter late at night to ensure that the person isn't left just standing around near the shelter. "What do we do so they aren't left out there on K-10.
Loring: "It is a new twist for us." "We have a van. If they get banned we will make arrangements to take them some place. I don't intend to turn people out on the street without a destination for them.
"I known that homeless people can look frieghting but the homeless population is just as wary of the main population as you are of them," Henderson says in response to a question about what neighbors can do to be better neighors. He encoruages neighbors to come to the shelter to get to understand the homeless.
8:06 Why the site was chosen and how accessible is it for the population that you serve. Loring: "This site was chosen because we ahve looked at between 25 to 30 sites. I works because it is not immediately near other residences." Sites have not worked for many reasons. "This site fits. The size of building fits. It is in on a bus route. It is near one of the two clusters of social services in the area." He menitons it is near parole office, SRS. "Being downtown is really not a place where services are." He said really only LINK and the shelter are the services downtown.
8:11 Indivual says he thinks shelter is wrong approach to dealing with the homeless. Said there are many who choose to be homeless. "We're begging others to come to this community. I just thnk it is the wrong way to handle this.
8:12 Another individual says that she is concerned about pedophiles being served at the sehtler. "All I see is them drinking and passed out in front of businesses.
Loring: Said that the shelter does background checks. Does not accept pedophiles. Has never had an incident of that nature at the current facility. "All I can do is assure you that is not the type of problems we have," Henderson said.
8:15 Several people concerned that shelter doesn't know if there are pedophiles or not because shelter leaders already have said many of the residents come in without an ID. Henderson said there are pictures of registered sex offenders. He said the shelter checks individuals against those photos.
Several people also have taken exception to a policy that is listed on a shelter handout that people who come to the shelter with alcohol have it taken away from them, but it is then returned to them when they leave the shelter.
"If you are handing their alcohol back to them in the morning that is just enabling," said Missi Pfeifer, an organizer of a neighborhood opposition group.
8:21 Loring Henderson. Said returning the alcohol is a very common practice. Lots of people are talking over each other. Meeting is getting pretty spirited. A security officer for the shelter now talks about the alcohol policy. "You can't just get rid of the alcohol for them. They have to want to get rid of it." "Establishing trust with these people is important. We also don't want alcohol stashed around the property. there is an element of control to that."
8:22 Another person says "What do you expect them to do? Hang around and drink." Shelter officials says even without a shelter you would not get rid of all alcohol in Lawrence.
8:25 "I love what LCS does. I work with mentality disabled." "Everybody would feel better about this if you built it as a dry shelter." Loring Henderson: "You really wouldn't be addressing the problem if did that."
8:27 Individual continues. "There has to be a better place for this than next to a trailer park." Another individual talks. She said she and her husband own a business nearby. "It is a well known fact that these people want to be downtown. Tell me, isn't it that you are trying to get the people out of downtown because the merchants don't want them there." Loring Henderson: "That is part of it, but I have to tell you that nobody wants to move the shelter worse than I do. We just don't have an inch of room to do what we want to do." Individual continues. "I think you are creating a bigger problem placing the shelter here. They want to be down by the river. They are going to go where they want to be. Find an environment where they can camp like they want to do." She said she is concerned about picking up booze bottles off business' front porch.
8:31: Another individual "You've said once they get off the property you have no control over them. That is where we come in. Our children are out playing. We maybe leave our garage door open. We're concerned." Also wants to know how 75 percent of residents are Douglas County based. Loring Henderson: Says it is through documentation. Can determine where they were getting mail. Many have family members in town. "It really is not a difficult thing to determine that somebody is from Lawrence." Individual says there are a lot of rumors that people are coming in from all over the country. Loring: "A lot of people come back to Lawrence for the same reasons that others do. It is their home or they have a connection here."
8:36 Another individual: "I think the Douglas County Fairgrounds are going to become a new campground. There are hundreds of kids and families out there every summer." Other members of the crowd note that there is a neighborhood pool nearby and that Kennedy Elementary School is across the street from farmland.
8:39 A resident of the area said she doesn't know her neighbors now. She doesn't know whether her neighbors are felons or not. Why is everybody concerned about having another neighbor when they don't know the ones they have, she asked.
8:41 Questions emerge about whether the shelter must purchase a about 1.5 acres of ground that is part of the Farmland Industries former site. Shelter leaders have said they don't have to have that piece of ground to build the shelter itself. But might not be able to build the jobs center.
8:43 Individual asks for the process to slow down. Concerned there is "tremendous pressure" by the city to move the shelter out of downtown. Also asks to determine whether there is any city owned land that could be donated to the shelter. Also concerned about the operation of the shelter. "To win public acceptance, this management plan is going to have to be overhauled." Ask if he would delay public hearing a month to give public more time to discuss it.
8:46 Lance Johnson city commissioner. "I'm trying to get a common theme here. In the interest of trying to find common ground." Asks those who are opposed if they would be more willing to accept the shelter if it were dry. Ask those who want the shelter would they be willing to do that. "I want to see if there is common path here."
8:49 When people were asked to raise their hands if they would accept it if it were dry, not many hands go up. Some ask for a more precise definition of what a dry shelter would be.
8:50 Question is asked about how many people who live at the shelter work outside the shelter. Loring Henderson said 10 to 12 earn a regular paycheck. Several others do temporary labor.
8:52 What does it take to get banned from the shelter, an individual asks. Loring: "It can be anything from noncooperation to distributing alcohol and drugs on the property. It can be fighting. It can be swearing and not cooperating with a monitor."
8:59 Individual says he is in construction business. Doesn't think he could get a site plan through if he didn't own all the property he was trying to build on. Thinks this is getting shoved through. Questions the size of the shelter's budget. Says it is $800,000 per year. "That is a whole lot of money. We really have to look for some better ideas. We can help those who need help for a whole lot cheaper. We need to try that instead of trying to push through backdoor deals."
9:02 Loring Henderson on budget: $800,000 is total. $250,000 of that is in-kind. Of the remaining $550,000 about 80 percent comes from individuals. City does provide some money, federal grants provide some money. Private foundations provide some money. On the construction budget, there will be a capital campaign. $3 million is the goal. "It will be donations from private individuals and foundations."
9:04 Moderator Bonnie Lowe says it is time to wrap up the meeting. She reminds people that people can submit written questions.