A plan to relocate Lawrence’s homeless shelter to the eastern edge of the city won’t be without opposition, but a Thursday evening forum attracted a smaller crowd of opponents than those drawn to previous proposals.
Neighbors and landowners near a warehouse just east of the Douglas County Jail objected to a plan by the Lawrence Community Shelter to convert the industrial building into a 125-bed homeless shelter.
“No matter how well you run it, it will affect the values of the property out around there,” said Gaye Kitsmiller, whose family has 160 acres of farm ground just south of the site that it hopes to develop into residential uses in the future.
About 45 people attended the forum at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, although at least a dozen of the attendees were either shelter staff members or supporters of the shelter.
Kitsmiller estimated about 30 people live in rural homes near the proposed site at 3701 Franklin Park Circle, and many have become frustrated with how the area is changing — first with the Douglas County Jail more than a decade ago, then with plans to build the South Lawrence Trafficway through the area, and now with the shelter proposal.
Shelter leaders gave crowd members several details about the proposal, including:
• Plans that call for the city to locate a public bus stop at the new shelter.
• The shelter would have a kitchen and dining room that would serve three meals per day.
• The building would have office space for a variety of social service agencies to cut down on the number of times shelter guests need to leave the building to access services.
Opponents did come from a wider area than just the rural neighborhood surrounding the site. The president of the Prairie Park Neighborhood Association told shelter leaders she was concerned about how the current shelter at 10th and Kentucky streets is managed.
“I would be more receptive to all of this if the shelter demanded more accountability from the people who stay there,” said Lindsey McCaig, whose neighborhood is about a half-mile west of the site.
Shelter leaders said they believe the new shelter will operate more smoothly than the current facility, which they said is severely undersized.
Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners are scheduled to discuss the project at their March 22 meeting.