As plans to relocate the Lawrence Community Shelter to an eastern Lawrence site march forward, the same old concern continues to stand in the way.
“I’m scared honestly,” said Karen Heeb, who lives near the proposed site at 3701 Franklin Park Circle. “I don’t know what to do if I go out to the barn to take care of horses and somebody is sleeping out there or confronts me. I’m not comfortable about this at all.”
About 20 people attended a meeting Thursday evening at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds where shelter leaders took questions about how a new 125-bed shelter next to the Douglas County Jail would operate.
Both residents and business owners expressed concern about where homeless individuals may go if they are turned away from the shelter or simply decide to leave. Jerry Taylor, an owner of adjacent Hillcrest Wrecker, said he was worried some may try to sleep in the cars parked on his property. Matt Eichman with Midwest Concrete Materials said he was concerned about the homeless sleeping in cement trucks at his nearby plant.
Shelter director Loring Henderson conceded he can’t control everything somebody does after they leave the shelter, but he said the shelter would work to minimize problems. He said the shelter will have a van that will offer to take people from the shelter to a more appropriate location. He also said staff members will be directed to work with neighbors or police to resolve any problems.
“You call me and I’ll do everything I can,” Henderson said. “They can’t be on private property. But I think you are going to find the shelter a very quiet place at night.”
Henderson also told neighbors that the new shelter, unlike at its current location at 10th and Kentucky streets, won’t operate a drop-in, daytime center.
Some business owners asked whether the shelter planned to hire an outside security company to help monitor the site at night. Henderson said that was not in the plans. Rather shelter staff and a camera system would be used.
The meeting was the first of three mandated by Lawrence city commissioners. Last month commissioners approved a special-use permit for the shelter to locate at Franklin Park Circle site, but ordered the shelter to bring back a management plan for how the shelter would operate. As part of that management plan process, the shelter is required to conduct three public meetings.
The other two meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. June 1 at Building No. 1 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St.; and 7 p.m. June 10 at the proposed shelter site, 3701 Franklin Park Circle.