Plans to build a new homeless shelter on the eastern edge of Lawrence received a more than $500,000 boost on Friday.
Leaders with the Lawrence Community Shelter announced that the Tulsa-based Mabee Foundation has awarded the project a $540,000 matching grant.
“We’re very excited, pleased, grateful,” said Loring Henderson, director of the shelter, which currently is located at 10th and Kentucky streets. “We feel like it is a tremendous endorsement of the program.”
Plans call for the shelter to renovate an existing industrial building just east of the Douglas County Jail into a 125-bed homeless shelter. The grant now gives the shelter project more than half of the $3 million needed to renovate the building at 3701 Franklin Park Circle.
Henderson said he’s optimistic that renovation work could begin by late February and be completed by late August.
John Tacha, a co-chair of the fundraising effort, said work would now begin to raise the matching money for the grant. The foundation will give the shelter a year to match the grant.
“But I’ll be disappointed if we don’t have the match by the end of November,” Tacha said. “This will get everybody energized.”
Tacha also said he expects the shelter to start a full-fledged public fundraising campaign in January or February. Thus far, the shelter has raised its money through grants and large private donations.
“Once we start the official campaign, we hope people will be willing to volunteer their time to help with the renovations or to help donate some of the equipment,” Tacha said. “But what we’ve been able to do so far tells you a lot about Lawrence. Lawrence is a such a unique town, a great town. We’re so appreciative.”
The shelter has received the necessary land use approvals from the city commission. A group of owners in the Franklin Business Park has 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.