The Lawrence Community Shelter may need to stay in downtown for another two years while it works to create a new shelter on the eastern edge of Lawrence.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are being asked to approve a two-year extension of the shelter’s current permit, which allows it to operate at 10th and Kentucky streets.
“I do feel good that this is likely to be the last time we have to ask for this,” shelter director Loring Henderson said of the permit extension.
Shelter leaders are asking for the extension of their current operational permit in order to give them enough time to win approval and conduct fundraising efforts for a proposed shelter site near the Douglas County Jail.
The new site — a warehouse building at 3701 Franklin Park Circle — is scheduled to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on March 22 for various land use approvals. City commissioners would then be ask to consider final approval of the site in April.
“Everything with the new site is going well enough,” Henderson said. “It is going surprisingly well. Neighbors have had questions certainly, but since there aren’t any real immediate neighbors, the questions have been a little softer.”
Shelter leaders will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Building No. 1 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds to discuss the project in more detail.
Meanwhile, some neighbors of the current facility at 10th and Kentucky streets are urging city commissioners to deny the permit extension.
Paul Horvath, who has both a home and an office near the shelter, said he’s experienced significant amounts of trespassing, theft and harassment that he believes is the result of the shelter being nearby. He’s also not convinced the shelter is close to moving from the site.
“Everybody wants to help people, but how you get there is the issue,” Horvath said. “Do you disrupt neighborhoods in the name of compassion?”
Because of the valid protest petition, approval of the permit extension will require four votes on the five-member commission.
City planners are recommending approval of the permit extension, but say commissioners should make the approval contingent upon the shelter’s new eastern Lawrence site winning approval in April. The shelter’s current operating permit expires in mid-April.
Henderson said he’s optimistic the proposed site can win support.
“This is the first site that I and the staff have really allowed our hearts to become as invested in as our minds,” Henderson said.
If approved, Henderson said he thinks there’s a good chance the shelter could move from its current location well before two years. The largest obstacle will be fundraising, which is expected to begin more publicly once approval for the site is granted by the city. Henderson said about $3 million must be raised.