For once at City Hall, all was quiet on the homeless shelter front.
City commissioners Tuesday gave the final approval needed for the Lawrence Community Shelter to move from downtown Lawrence to a warehouse just east of the Douglas County Jail.
Commissioners approved the management plan for the 125-bed shelter on a 4-0 vote without any member of the public speaking against it. Commissioner Lance Johnson was absent.
“This is a huge night, although it was a quiet night,” said Loring Henderson, the shelter’s director. “But this is massive for us. This is the end of a whole lot of hard work by a lot of people. Now we’re able to start looking forward.”
Shelter leaders now will accelerate fundraising activity. Fundraisers have set a goal of about $3 million for the project, and have about $1 million in pledges currently, said John Tacha, a co-chair of the fundraising effort.
Henderson said he believes the shelter realistically could be moved into the new location at 3701 Franklin Park Circle in 12 to 18 months.
Several locations had been proposed during a four-year search, but they had always been met with stiff opposition from neighbors.
This site also was opposed by nearby property owners, but none of them spoke out Tuesday evening. Commissioners and shelter leaders said they recognized that not all neighbors support the project, but said they think the shelter made a good-faith effort to take neighbors’ concerns into account.
“I think people are getting the information they need to support the project, or if they are against it to at least be educated about what the shelter does,” Commissioner Mike Dever said.
A group of owners in the Franklin Business Park have contended the shelter doesn’t comply with covenants that long have been in place on the property, but shelter leaders said they are confident those issues will be worked out.
The plan approved by commissioners spells out how the shelter will conduct day-to-day operations. Among the provisions added following meetings with neighbors are a one-day ban for shelter guests who are caught loitering on property near the shelter, and guarantees that the shelter won’t operate as a daytime drop-in center for the homeless.