Archive for Friday, November 13, 2009

Speakers at forum criticize shelter proposal

A public forum to discuss the future plans for a new community shelter draw a crowd of about 70 residents Thursday. Residents argued points both for and against the idea.

November 13, 2009

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A public forum on plans for a new homeless shelter on East 23rd Street turned into a rapid-fire listing of objections by neighbors on Thursday night.

A crowd of about 70 people filled the Boys and Girls Club offices in east Lawrence to tell leaders of the Lawrence Community Shelter that they objected to plans to move the shelter to the former site of Don’s Steakhouse, 2176 E. 23rd Street.

No objection was bigger than the build-it-and-they-will-come theory.

“You’ve been kicked out of downtown, or asked to leave downtown, because you haven’t been a good neighbor, and now you are telling us that you’ll be a better neighbor by making your shelter bigger,” said Mark Gwaltney, an owner of Diamond Everley Roofing, which is next door to the proposed site. “By making it bigger we’re just begging others to come to our community.

“I think it is absolutely the wrong way to handle this.”

‘Time to understand’

Shelter director Loring Henderson told a standing-room-only crowd that he did not believe a larger shelter would make the community a magnet for the homeless people in other areas. He also said the proposed site was a good one because it wasn’t immediately adjacent to residences, and that much of the loitering issues at the shelter’s current location in downtown are related to the property being too small and next to a public parking lot.

But mainly Henderson said it will just take more time for residents to learn about the shelter’s operations.

“It was like the conversations we have had so many times with other people who are new to the issues,” Henderson said. “There just needs to be more time to understand there are successes here.”

As part of the meeting, neighbors again asked for more time to consider the proposal. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is scheduled to have a public hearing on a rezoning and special-use permit for the property on Monday. Neighbors asked for the hearing to be delayed by at least a month. Henderson did not commit to ask for a delay.

“I’m not sure we’re going to find a better site than this, and I’m not sure what the additional time will buy us,” said Henderson, who confirmed the shelter is scheduled to close on the property on Dec. 8.

Additional questions

The meeting, though, made it clear neighbors have lots of questions. Among the issues raised:

• Concerns over what will happen to individuals who are turned away from the shelter. Several neighbors expressed concerns that loitering would take place in the neighborhood, and that the Douglas County Fairgrounds would become an unofficial campsite for the homeless. Henderson said he would not turn away individuals at night unless he had another location that they could be taken to. Neighbors, though, questioned where that would be.

• Fears that pedophiles will be housed at the facility. Henderson said it is against shelter policy to house known sexual offenders, but neighbors questioned how effective the shelter’s background checks are in determining whether an individual is on the sexual predator list.

• Objections to the shelter’s policy of allowing people who have been drinking or using drugs to stay at the shelter. In particular, neighbors objected to a shelter policy statement that said if an individual brought alcohol to the site, it would be taken from him or her but then returned to the individual as they left. The shelter’s head of security said that was a sound policy because it stopped individuals from trying to hide alcohol near the shelter, and also it is an important part of treatment to convince addicts to give up alcohol voluntarily rather than taking it from them.

Henderson told the crowd that the shelter does operate drug and alcohol intervention programs and provides counselors for people. He also said residents of the shelter are required to meet with case managers and follow certain rules of conduct while they stay there.

Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioners will hear the issues at a meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall. If planning commissioners recommend the site, Lawrence city commissioners could consider giving it final approval in early December.

Comments

Jeanette Kekahbah 5 years, 9 months ago

2 words: snow job.

Henderson was NOT able to address concerns. Nor was he able to stop contradicting himself.

Yes, there are people in need of a shelter. But the shelter needs to be where those people are - NOT wedged between Douglas County Fairgrounds, a bar & toxic wasteland on a stretch of high-volume traffic highway where vehicles are moving 55-65mph.

Henderson's selling points on this site choice are so baseless, it's hard to believe HE buys into them. After last night's meeting my confidence and trust in this man would have to be expressed in negative integers.

IF the city is foolish enough to allow Henderson's plan to go through, both entities best be prepared to be held accountable for disaster.

Henderson's "this is as good as it gets" party line is BS and several of his shelter policies are BS.

JUST SAY NO - SEE YOU MONDAY NIGHT.

grammaddy 5 years, 9 months ago

That proposed shelter is right out my back door, across k-10. Unless you are worried about drunks being hit by traffic on the highway, I don't see the problem. People don't want them downtown or near businesses or schools, so where else is there?

Amy Heeter 5 years, 9 months ago

Snow job is right. Loring and her merry band of enablers are creating a monster here. The reason Loring says this is the best location is because every other one was thrown out due to neighbors fighting them. This time Loring has rushed the finalization through to they to keep the people from stopping this. If this site is approved I plan to call the police everytime one of the participants tresspass. When I see them hanging out drinking on the street I will call. When I see them on the Kennedy school grounds I will call. When I see them litter I will call. Any infraction no matter how small I will call. The police will be very busy.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 9 months ago

Or something. There are many problems associated with the current shelter. Dismissing the problems is denial.

remember_username 5 years, 9 months ago

Darn it! I knew those neighbor kids with the backyard sling shot and empty booze bottles were trouble.

remember_username 5 years, 9 months ago

artichokeheart - won't work, the police will just stop responding to your calls. Then on the one day you need them...

somedude20 5 years, 9 months ago

Use eminent domain and take over one of the frat houses in the student ghetto. Win Win as it is already a "ghetto" and students are not much different than homeless (live off others money, dirty, drink, make love to and then eat the wild life. ect)

nuby 5 years, 9 months ago

This is just putting a band aid on the problem. Come up with a real solution. A real work program for starters. The people at their dog biscuit "company" work 10 hours a week and they have yet to turn a profit.

Unless some legal reason is found, the City Commission is going to push this through. It's clear they don't care about the neighbors concerns, only one of them bothered to show up last night.

Raider 5 years, 9 months ago

The LCS has had over 400 police calls this year alone, and we're not even in December. How does Loring explain that one? How can they say that crime and police activity won't increase in this neighborhood? This is simply a money-grab by someone. That's why it's being rushed through.

These people do not belong in a residential neighborhood with children, schools, daycares and the elderly in such high concentration. This is simply inviting more crime.

What happens when one of these people breaks into my house? What happens when Grandma goes to get in her car, only to find one of these drunks passed out in her front seat? You laugh, but this has happened more than once. The people who are turned away will look for unlocked cars or garages for a place to sleep. They have no respect for other peoples property. They litter, pass out wherever it's convenient, and are basically a drain on society. If I catch one on my property, I will treat them as a trespasser and make sure they are tossed in jail. Then, I will sue Loring and LCS as they are the ones responsible for this mess.

remember_username 5 years, 9 months ago

artichokeheart - you're right, they can't refuse to respond. Still, do you think they'll enjoy repeated calls from you? Is it their fault the shelter was moved? Save your anger for the right people. I suggest you call the members of the shelter board, or city commission members, anytime you see an infraction. Your sense of outrage will be better assuaged and the police will be free of harassment.

brujablanco 5 years, 9 months ago

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yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 9 months ago

Sorry username i just don't think the council members plan to get out of bed to deal with vagrants in the neighborhood. Loring H. has already ignored the problem where the shelter is now so I have doubts he will respond to assist. I have discussed this with public officals and it is their instruction to call police when these things happen. It may be unfortunate that the police will be burdened with this but there is no other alternative.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh, please! I was quoting the Dead Kennedys song "Kill the poor", for crying out loud.

I guess their words still have the power to generate strong responses.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 9 months ago

Loring H. knows this is a bad location but he has failed at every other proposed site because the neighbors fought it. The shelter needs to focus on the true homeless and stop enableing drunks. If they did the current site would be enough.

ksarmychick 5 years, 9 months ago

So who is going to pay for all of the damage to cars from accidently hitting the drunks trying to cross K-10? The 1st time I hit one I am going to sue the city, the shelter, and henderson.

januarygirl 5 years, 9 months ago

MR. HENDERSON, CALL IT WHAT IT IS, A REHAB CENTER!!!!!! A HOMELESS SHELTER IS FOR FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN OR INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN DISPLACED DUE TO LOSS OF INCOME OR FORECLOSEURE ON THEIR HOMES AND ILLNESS. NOT DRUG OR ALCOHOL ADDICTIONS THAT NEED TREATMENT. YOU ARE MOWING OVER WHAT THE PEOPLE OF THIS COMMUNITY WANT AND DON"T WANT, VERSES WHAT YOU WANT. I FEEL THAT THAT POPULATION NEEDS SPECIAL HELP IN A REHAB CENTER.

kernal 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes, we need a shelter for Lawrence residents, not transients, sex offenders and convicted felons coming in from other cities and states. The last LJW story about some poor homeless person, turned out to be a convicted felon with a history of violence and kids in tow from Johnson County; we should ask why that family wasn't at a shelter in Johnson County? The current management of the shelter is a group of enablers without skills to manage a shelter. Henderson stated it is against policy to knowingly shelter known preditors. If that's the case registered sex offenders using the shelters address and the KBI shows the offenders in compliance at the shelter's address. All Henderson needs to do is get on the internet and look. If anyone thinks the transients are going to stay on the shelter grounds, that person is either naive. They have no reason to stay on the grounds. They will be wandering the adjacent neighborhoods, hanging out by the grade school on Harper. If you live in central Lawrence, you know they wander looking for handouts, deficating in yards, knocking on doors looking for cigarettes and money, passing out in yards and alleys dead drunk. And, I am talking about as far west of downtown as Avalon Rd. Let's keep a shelter open, but tighten up the requirements for the "temporary" residents and then we can afford adequate help for true Lawrence residents, not transient populations.

eastsidepride 5 years, 9 months ago

Lets get this straight! At Thursdays public forum many many questions were dodged by Loring, and City Planning Commission members, and our City Commission. Questions were asked...such as how is it that the LCS can turn in a provised site plan with land included that it does not own. (nobody seemed to have an answer) Next question... Is the city trying to buy the Farmland property...even our Mayor was there but did not have an answer to this! Answer would be yes the city is trying to attain this property with the intention of donating the 1.5 acres to the Shelter, BUT doesnt want anyone to know Im guessing! Why else would the proposed site plan be acceptable! It sure wouldnt work for anyone else. Next the yearly budget for the shelter is going to be around 800,000.00 . This does not include the 3 million it is going to take to bulldoze Dons and build a shiny new building! My problem there is...who pays for this? You got it...we do! Our schools continue to hurt for money, many costs are passed to parents. The funding for busing was cut! Our teachers pay for extra materials out of there own pay just to have what they need.(ask any teacher) Yet we are willing to put up this kinda of money and invest it in the homeless population. Many of us work paycheck to paycheck with the economy as it is. Charity starts at home!!!We should be investing in the future of our children who will be tomorrows leaders. These issues are just the tip of the iceberg and added concerns to a list that just keeps growing and growing. The LCS is not working in its current location because of managment problems and is a constant nuisance for downtown residence and businesses, yet East Lawrence is trying to be led to believe the current problems wont affect us...GIVE ME A BREAK! If the shelter is more than a drunk tank then explain to me why the new building will only have enough rooms to house 5 families, another room for women and a third room that is twice the size as the others and is for the affected homeless.Hmmmmm smells funny to me! I can only hope that the commissioners will listen to East Lawrence residence who will be at the meeting Monday night at 6pm at city hall. So far our worries and concerns have been ignored and swept under a rug. This isnt fair to any neighborhood in Lawrence yet East Lawrence doesnt seem to have enough pull to get this fight heard. It is very dissapointing to know that I have lived in East Lawrence my whole life and there is little we can do to stop our own city from pushing this on a neighborhood that does not want it!!! Or deserve it!!!

januarygirl 5 years, 9 months ago

I THINK EAST LAWRENCE AND THE CITY OF LAWRENCE NEED A GOOD ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT THEM IN THE FIGHT TO BE HEARD. THE FACTS ON THIS PROJECT HAVE BEEN VERY CONVIENTLY LEFT OUT. THERE ARE CONFLICT OF INTEREST HERE. WE NEED REPRESENTATION!!!!!! ANYONE OUT THERE TO HELP US FROM THIS VERY BAD PLAN FROM HAPPENING.

50YearResident 5 years, 9 months ago

$800,000 annual operating expense for a shelter to cater to other States and new incoming homeless people that are not wanted here? Another question, What is the salary of Mr. Henderson to direct the shelter? Just how much of this $800,000 goes directly to him? This is a big drain on every citizen of Lawrence that we don't need.

eastsidepride 5 years, 9 months ago

Right On!!! 50yrresident and january girl!!!!

honestone 5 years, 9 months ago

The comissioners have moved the flop house out of their neighborhood and have dropped it on those with the least resources to fight it. The barber shop, the environmental company and DLA are happy and could care less about you, your homes or your family. It sucks to live in East Lawrence

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