Archive for Thursday, November 12, 2009

Public forum set for tonight on new Lawrence Community Shelter, LJWorld.com will have live blog

November 12, 2009, 4:29 p.m. Updated November 12, 2009, 9:04 p.m.

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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.

Comments

the_captain 5 years, 4 months ago

Just as a matter of conjecture, the State and Federal Governments both have a number of vacant buildings that with a little rehab would house a very large number of homeless people. Some of these buildings are at abandoned military bases and armories closed around the country and the state. They were closed to supposedly save money, but considering the circumstances, why could they not be converted for this? They all have facilities for food and medical, and they are already paid for. Why not use them since tax dollars are being used to provide new facilities?

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

Loring's response to the 8:12 question about prdophiles is an outright lie. All anyone has to do is look at the Kansas sex offfender registry. The drop in center addy is listed multiple times. While Loring and the other staff may be aware of convictions they do not refuse service to registered sex offenders. Also they have not in the past transported individuals that are banned. This may be a new idea but I suspect there will be staffing problems where transport is needed. I have to question where they would be transporting them as well. The nearest alternative mission is in Topeka and I doubt the city would be willing to take on the liability issues related to long distance transport.

50YearResident 5 years, 4 months ago

Approved or not, they still have to get the money from people that are against this project. Don't give and the project stalls out.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't believe for a minute Loring and his staff check all the offenders listed on the national sex offender registry. That would require alot of man hours to look at every pic and compare to every person going to the shelter. I know for a fact there are at least 7 sex offenders who frequent the shelter daily and one volunteer that is a sex offender from another state.

50YearResident 5 years, 4 months ago

How can they do background checks when they admit to this fact: benefits: some people don't have birth certificates or state IDs. "It is very difficult to even rent an apartment without an ID." And to do background checks with verified ID's. Are they hiding from the law?

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh Loring tell the truth. The numbers show a good portion of theose served are parole, & community corrections transfers. Not to mention the one's DCCCA brings in through their programs.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes they are hiding. Sex offenders are required to register but if they leave the state of conviction it is near impossible to track them. Even the Sheriff will confirm that.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

All joking aside I see fatalities in the future if the shelter is built at this location.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

I knew you were. I don't see how this location is the best alternative. Participants will be going through the neighborhood to get downtown. POlice patrols will need to double in the area onif the shelter moves out there. Who is going to pay for that?

Raider 5 years, 4 months ago

The LCS has had over 400 police calls made on it this year alone. Do we really want this close to schools, daycares and our elder population?

This whole thing is shady. The downtown merchants threw a fit, and the powers that be thought they could just sweep the problem into east Lawrence and no one would complain.

Loring keeps saying they've looked at several locations, and this one is the best choice. Why? What makes this site so special? Who stands to make a huge profit on this? Follow the money trail and you'll find the culprits behind this.

Bottom line, we do not need or want these people (Yeah, I said it) in our neighborhood. We work hard for what we have, and sure don't want vagrants left to roam free in our neighborhood.

If this shelter is placed at the old Don's, the area between 23rd and Harper and 15th and Haskell will see a spike in property crimes and police calls. What happens when one of these people (again, I said it) breaks into someones home? What happens if it's an elderly person who can't defend themselves? Will it take one of these people killing someone before the city takes notice and does something to fix the bum problem we have in this town? You don't caudle and cater, you send them on their way to the next town down the road.

We're already overtaxed. The state is damned near broke. Now we're being asked to spend our tax dollars on people who refuse to work?

I'd also like to know how a site plan can be drawn up, and a permit issued when the person building the property doesn't even own ALL of the land on the site plan. Last I checked, that land is still part of the Farmland property. Has the Shelter bought it, and we just haven't been informed? Something shady is going on with this whole process.

unelectable 5 years, 4 months ago

Think only the homeless are drunks? or that all the homeless are drunks? Most of you know at least one person who is drunk most of the day, more days than not. And that person holds a job and a family life and is the life of the party.

have fun talking with the people who agree with you and at those who don't.

1029 5 years, 4 months ago

"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."

Man, if there was a way to turn garbage into biscuits that dogs would eat, lots of the world's problems would be solved. And if homeless were making money off of turning the garbage into biscuits, they could go out and pick up trash and empty dumpsters as a job. Think of all the land we are destroying with all our trash. And dogs will eat just about anything. Scientists would just have to figure out how to make the garbage healthy and edible somehow. Sounds like a win-win-win for the homeless, the planet, and the hungry dogs that will eat anything.

1029 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh yeah, and I think Raider should smoke some K-2 and chill out.

Prometheus 5 years, 4 months ago

artichokeheart : “Loring's response to the 8:12 question about prdophiles is an outright lie. All anyone has to do is look at the Kansas sex offfender registry. The drop in center addy is listed multiple times.”

As of 11:37pm Central Standard Time on the KBI website;

http://www.accesskansas.org/kbi/offender_registry/

For all of Douglas County, Kansas:

There are 84 registered offenders listed.

Only 2 of those 84 is a registered offender listed at 214 w. 10th.

That is only 2% of the registered offenders in Douglas County.

Meatwad 5 years, 4 months ago

I just don't trust Loring. I don't feel that he truly has the interest of the people of Lawrence in mind. He would grow and grow his shelter to accommodate everyone who wanted to come to Lawrence and take advantage of our city. There are absolutely people who come here from other cities because the other cities don't cater to their lifestyle like Lawrence does. A big-hearted Loring freebie handout is not really what is best for all the drug/alcohol addicts, it only enables them. He needs to stop enabling and until he changes, or loses his job, Lawrence's population of homeless addicts is going to grow and grow.

Prometheus 5 years, 4 months ago

I was disappointed in numerous members of the audience this evening. There were multiple examples of interrupting each other, sarcastic snide comments between microphone exchanges, and disrespect for the persons speaking.

The passions and opinions expressed by all are valuable and respectable, but this type of behavior isn’t. How can you expect the homeless population to behave in the manner of your choosing when you can’t even raise your hand and obey the rules at a community forum?

The joking about people being run over by cars is a serious issue and finding humor in it is sickening.

Calling the homeless population “these people” is erroneous and marginalizing. They are human beings the same as us all.

Meatwad 5 years, 4 months ago

and then he will keep needing more money and more space. It won't stop. Lawrence needs to say, sorry but we can't be the mecca for the lifestyle homeless anymore. I'm all for helping sober people who need help and want to change their lives, a dry shelter would be a help to them and their families. This shelter not only welcomes alcoholics and a drug addicts, they even give the alcohol back to the alcoholics in the morning.... you have to be kidding. Sadly he's not kidding.

Meatwad 5 years, 4 months ago

Prometheus, that does sound unfortunate behavior at the meeting. I think that if Loring didn't insist on having a wet shelter, I am certain that the lifestyle homeless would either move on to another city or have to change their lifestyle. If the enabling stopped, what would they do?People's negative attitude toward the homeless is due to the specific people that Loring's shelter welcomes. If his shelter had sober and non-addicted people, you wouldn't see this level of opposition. The lifestyle homeless who we all see ruining our downtown also ruin the chances for other people (sober people) who need some temporary help.

Meatwad 5 years, 4 months ago

Raider said, "Will it take one of these people killing someone before the city takes notice and does something to fix the bum problem we have in this town?" I know that sounds extreme but it happened in New York City -- a homeless man pushed a girl off of a subway platform in front of a train. She died. Another homeless man smashed a large rock on a man's head. He's dead now too. What that tells me is that some people need hospitalization, but what Lawrence does instead is enable them and attract more and more... and gives them 3 meals a day, a place to sleep at night, freedom to do drugs as much as they want and gives them their alcohol back when they leave in the morning.

Jeanette Kekahbah 5 years, 4 months ago

Jeez, LJW, your "blogger" conveniently skipped my comments & questions. Quite a disservice to your readers as they were A) important B) pointed out several examples of Loring Henderson's inability to speak without contradicting himself C) challenging Blevins' grossly misleading statements and D) highlighted concerns, issues & inquiries Henderson was completely unable to address.

Quoting Henderson: "Shelter residents don't have money for public transportation." Then stop making this location's proximity to a bus stop a selling point!

Quoting Blevins: "The only way to get people to deal with their addictions is to work with them." Babysitting their booze overnight & passing out their party favors to them as they leave at 10:00am is NOT working with or helping - IT IS ENABLING. Blevins' justification, "it's a common practice," screams of "aw, mom & dad, ALL the kids at school get drunk so really, it's okay, chill out & hand me another beer." PUHLEESE! This is ineptitude, not "intervention"

Since residents are kicked out at 10:00am & not let back in until 7:00pm, doesn't that free up some space for 5 PART-TIME workers to make "Good Dog Biscuits & Treats" or is NINE HOURS per day SEVEN DAYS per week insufficient, I mean when did PART-TIME EXCEED A SIXTY-THREE HOUR WORK WEEK?!?!

EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL - EPIC FAIL

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

Prometheus (Anonymous) says…

"As of 11:37pm Central Standard Time on the KBI website;

http://www.accesskansas.org/kbi/offen

For all of Douglas County, Kansas:

There are 84 registered offenders listed.

Only 2 of those 84 is a registered offender listed at 214 w. 10th.

That is only 2% of the registered offenders in Douglas County."

More double talk from the proshelter crew. The Kansas sex offender registry does not include those conviced prior to 1993. Don't play dumb on this. You know exactly who the offenders are that are not registered.

If double talk were money you guys could build a effective shelter that does not allow drugs and alcohol. Maybe if the staff and board members were not taking donated items (like cars for a steal of a deal) the funds to run the shelter would already in place and have positive outcomes.

Fact is the shelter is violating the law by returning open containers to participants. I wonder what would happen if people in the community filed suit against the city. Public intoxication is a city violation. The shelter is responsible for any crime commited by a person they return a bottle to.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 4 months ago

Prometheus (Anonymous) says…

"I was disappointed in numerous members of the audience this evening. There were multiple examples of interrupting each other, sarcastic snide comments between microphone exchanges, and disrespect for the persons speaking.

The passions and opinions expressed by all are valuable and respectable, but this type of behavior isn’t. How can you expect the homeless population to behave in the manner of your choosing when you can’t even raise your hand and obey the rules at a community forum?"

When I can walk down Mass St or walk into Dillons without someone begging for my change and without them being aggressive when I say ":No" then I will consider my behavior in response to this situation.

"The joking about people being run over by cars is a serious issue and finding humor in it is sickening. "

I wasn't joking about that at all I see problems with this site being on K10.

Prometheus 5 years, 4 months ago

artichokeheart:

” When I can walk down Mass St or walk into Dillons without someone begging for my change and without them being aggressive when I say “:No” then I will consider my behavior in response to this situation.”

I respect your frustration with the excessive panhandling and can see why this causes you unrest.

However in my view one inappropriate behavior cannot condone another inappropriate behavior.

That doesn’t make me right or you right, these are just our opinions.

If we all thought the same the world would be a very boring place.

Prometheus 5 years, 4 months ago

artichokeheart: “More double talk from the proshelter crew. The Kansas sex offender registry does not include those conviced prior to 1993. Don't play dumb on this.”

I sincerely assure you I am not talking in double nor am I playing dumb. There is no need for falsehoods on this board.

My post was in direct response to yours. You stated “All anyone has to do is look at the Kansas sex offfender registry. The drop in center addy is listed multiple times.”

Therefore I went to the KBI site as you suggested and posted the data for all to see. This was done solely so others may see the data and make their own conclusions, not to refute or challenge you.

I saw no need to mention the offender laws prior to 1993 as that was not included in your original writings and therefore my bringing it up would have made no sense in the context of that to which I was replying.

I appreciate your opinions and participation in discussion though they differ from mine.

Good evening.

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