Archive for Wednesday, May 18, 2011

City commissioner suspects new shelter won’t solve all of downtown’s homeless issues

May 18, 2011


A new city commissioner said he thinks the public may have the wrong idea about downtown, the homeless and what happens once the Lawrence Community Shelter leaves its home at 10th and Kentucky streets.

City Commissioner Hugh Carter said Wednesday that he suspects about 90 percent of the public believes if the community shelter moved to a new location that downtown’s homeless issues largely would be solved.

“That’s not the case,” he said. “I think some issues definitely could be worse for downtown. The ones causing the biggest issues for downtown are the least likely ones to be at the new shelter. The plan going forward seems to leave them with nowhere to go for large portions of the day.”

That’s because plans for any new shelter — a site for which still hasn’t been found yet — do not include a drop-in center. The current shelter does include a drop-in center that allows the homeless a place to go during the day. The new shelter — according to plans previously approved by the City Commission — will be open only during the day to people who have joined the shelter’s jobs program and follow other regulations.

Carter said it is unrealistic to believe that all of the homeless individuals that use the drop-in center will be willing to join the shelter’s programs.

“We need to quantify how large of a number we’re talking about, and then we need to start putting some heads together to figure out what we do at that point,” Carter said.

Shelter director Loring Henderson said Carter brings up a good point.

“My thoughts are that there needs to be a drop-in center somewhere in the city,” Henderson said. “It is a common thing for a community to have a drop-in center in addition to a shelter.”

Carter stopped short of saying he thinks the community needs a drop-in center. He has been a strong proponent of getting the shelter out of downtown, but he said he wants to make sure the city has a plan to deal the homeless who may stay in downtown once the shelter leaves.

“I don’t think most people — even some fairly close to the situation, like downtown merchants — understand what happens next,” Carter said. “I just want to get a conversation going.”

Henderson said he doesn’t have any particular location in mind for a drop-in center, and he said the drop in-center would not have to be run by the Lawrence Community Shelter. But he said there are good reasons to believe that some homeless — he didn’t estimate a number — will stay downtown once the shelter moves. He pointed to both LINK and The Salvation Army’s feeding, the Community Building — which offers a place to shower — the library, the bus transfer station and several social service organizations that are all downtown.

“I think there are people who believe the ones who are causing problems are out-of-towners and that they’ll move one once we no longer offer a drop-in center,” Henderson said. “Most are not from out of town. They have Lawrence connections and are going to stay.”

For the moment, though, the issue is moot because the shelter hasn’t yet found a location for a new shelter. Henderson on Wednesday said the shelter was continuing to tour possible sites. He declined to name any potential locations.

“We’re still looking at buildings, talking to people and working hard to get out of this building,” Henderson said.

Wednesday’s discussion about the homeless shelter came up after city commissioners briefly discussed the item at a Tuesday afternoon goal-setting session. As part of that session, commissioners directed staff members to get an update on the shelter’s search for a new location.

On Wednesday, Mayor Aron Cromwell said he hopes the shelter does not give up on a previously identified site at 3701 Franklin Park Circle, which is just east of Douglas County Jail. But a district court judge dealt that site a setback by ruling against the shelter in a case related to restrictive covenants that are attached to the property.

Cromwell said he hadn’t completely ruled out the possibility of a deal being struck to allow that site — which has already been approved by the City Commission — to move forward.

“I don’t think there is anywhere in town that is as good as the Franklin Park site,” Cromwell said of possible shelter locations. “I think it is several times better than any other site.”


doc1 7 years ago

Franklin Park Circle. I know a few East Lawrence residence that would burn down that building before letting that project finalize.

irvan moore 7 years ago

the franklin park location is the worst of all the bad choices they have made so far. the commissioners want them away from downtown and will support any move that will get them gone. they should work on solving the homeless problems, not the downtown problems.

somebodynew 7 years ago

How do you propose to "work on solving the homeless problems" per se??? Not all of them, but some of them choose that as a way of life. Do you want to cater to them, or put them on a bus?? Just curious, I would really like to know your ideas.

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

The first thing that needs to be done is something that advocates for the homeless are loathe to do, they must evaluate individuals to determined who amongst them deserve to be served and who does not. Those that have severe and/or chronic mental health disorders need to receive appropriate treatment. People who are developmentally delayed should likewise receive appropriate care. However, those who choose a lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse coupled with homelessness should not be given services. They use valuable resources that would be better spent on others. It's a value judgement, the very things advocates tend to shy away from, even though they are in the best position to make those determinations. But it's my opinion that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers want a value judgement to be made. Give services to those who find themselves in need but not having been responsible for the reason they are out there. Deny services to those whose very actions are the reason for the homelessness.

jafs 7 years ago

What about those who have made bad choices but want to make better ones?

gudpoynt 7 years ago

And what becomes of those to whom services are denied?

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

To those who have made bad choices but now want to make better choices, perhaps you have a point. But having worked with homeless adults (in a large city in another state), it was my experience that they are few and far between. What to do with those denied services, nothing. I don't know how they should live their lives. I don't know where they should go or where they will go. That's their choice. I don't presume to know how other people should live their lives. Should I impose upon them a vegan diet because I think it's good for them? Or because I think it's good for the planet? Should they buy local? Pedal to work rather than drive a SUV? Should I impose those things on you? Leave them alone. Let them live their lives as they see fit. Let them reap the rewards of their decisions, good or bad. Let them hit "their" bottom, when recovery is more likely, even while knowing that the bottom for some will be death.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

Well, if they're homeless, and death is their "bottom" then where will they go to die? It is acceptable to have people dying under bridges or in alleyways because they were denied services that could easily have been provided?

A more likely outcome for those who aren't ready, willing, or even capable of turning their lives around, is arrest. But that's not much of a solution either, is it? You just shifted the burden of providing services from the drop-in center to the penal system, taking away the individuals freedom in the process.

Point being, this is one of those scenarios where inaction can be construed as action due to our present capabilities and the social structures we have in place.

Are the consequences of denying services more dire than providing them?

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

You make some good points. The problem as I see it is when we choose to do things half way. We allow people to make bad choices but protect them from the consequences. We need to allow them to make choices and allow them to suffer the consequences or we need to not allow them to make the bad choice to begin with. It's the half way approach that has no resolution, good or bad. I made the following analogy on a previous thread, but the half way approach produces not a social safety net, but a social trampoline. They fall down, we pick them up, again and again.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

Exactly. They fall down, we pick them up, again and again. A dude named Jesus was an advocate for such behavior. Remember the prodigal son?

Of course, Jesus never had to sit on a city commission. At least not according to any of the gospels I've read.

We identify ourselves as democratic, which necessitates consensus, and often results in the "half way" type solutions you speak of. I'm afraid we'll always be stuck with something in between absolute individual responsibility and absolute communal responsibility.

The moral question that we need to come to consensus on as a community, is how much will we allow those in need to suffer? What level of suffering is appropriate justice for an individual's actions, and what level is unacceptable to sit back and watch happen?

xclusive85 7 years ago

If I remember right, the prodigal son was allowed to leave and make mistakes. Only when he returned repentent of his bad choices did the father rejoice. The way I see it, the prodigal son story would be more fitting for the homeless that decide they want to go through the shelter programs, not the one's that just want a place to sober a little before they go get drunk or high again.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

That's true. Although the question of iteration is left out of the parable. Since the prodigal son only returned once, does that imply that Jesus was advocating for just a single chance to repent? What if the prodigal son relapsed, and then came back again?

Is there a point at which the father would have said, "Look son, you've effed up too many times. I'm not helping you any more. I don't care if you drink yourself to death. I simply will not help you anymore."

I know a few parables, but by no means all of them. Is there one where Jesus places limits on forgiveness?

Regardless, as I said before, Jesus isn't on the city council. Steadfast and eternal forgiveness is fine if your trying to start a pacifist religious movement, but it's infeasible for a democratic gov't.

So, the moral question remains: how do we, as a community, come to a consensus on what should be the limits of services for those who need them, but may not necessarily deserve them? How do we determine what "deserve" means?

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

As a non-Christian, let me make a couple of quick observations. Jesus seems like he was a good "dude" (Gudpoynt's term). So was Mother Theresa. History has seen many good Christians having done many good deeds. But there are some teachings I disagree with. This planet's overpopulation has been caused in part by the teachings of that church. That, in turn, limits our ability to distribute resources to such a large population.
It's normal and common in this country to assume that some anonymous writer in the LJW might be Christian and share Christian values. But like all assumptions, sometimes you're wrong.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

as a non-Christian, i didn't mean to peg you as such :-)

irvan moore 7 years ago

neither, i'm not smart enough to figure out the answers but it seems like we need a location for the shelter that is accessable to services and in a location that doesn't isolate the problem and just keep it out of sight. the chronic homeless that have chosen that lifestyle are probably beyond help but i think we can provide basic needs for those who cannot survive without them. pushing to put the shelter next to a eastside neighborhood makes me think the commission just wants the problem anywhere but downtown.

50YearResident 7 years ago

“I think there are people who believe the ones who are causing problems are out-of-towners and that they’ll move one once we no longer offer a drop-in center,” Henderson said. “Most are not from out of town. They have Lawrence connections and are going to stay.” The truth about this statement is that the word has gone out across the US that Lawrence is a "Homeless Heaven" and so they move here permantly. Ask them how long they have lived in Lawrence and you will find out none were living in Lawrence before they became homeless. They moved here for the "Benefits" In Lawrence if you stay overnight you are considered a "Resident" by Henderson's standards. Build a shelter for 200 and you will soon have 400. There will never be a big enouth shelter space in Lawrence because they will continue to come to overcroud the existing facilities.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

So instead, we should become a "Hell for the Homeless ".

What would you suggest we do to make sure that no homeless person would ever want to come here?

jafs 7 years ago

Not that I necessarily agree with this, but we could stop providing services to them.

That would be a deterrent, wouldn't it?

gudpoynt 7 years ago

sure, it would be a deterrent. Eventually. But what's the moral cost of it?

gudpoynt 7 years ago

You can deter a homeless person from coming to town , but you can't deter them from being homeless.

Deterring the homeless from coming to your town justs shifts the concentration of the problem to another town, while doing nothing to solve it.

jafs 7 years ago

Ok, ok.

You asked for suggestions that would deter homeless folks from coming here, and I offered one, that's all.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

@jafs, right on. My orig question was rhetorical though, meant more to pose the moral question of what limits should a community put on the services they offer to those most in need?

Should it matter how long they've lived here?

Should it matter if they are trying to turn their lives around?

Should it matter how many times they've fallen back into their old habits?

You know, these types of questions.

50YearResident 7 years ago

Why offer better services than they have in their hometown. We are creating more problems for ourselves. There is no benefit in attracting them here for superior handouts, all it does is drain local chairities of needed funds and causes law enforcement problems and panhandling. Give me a reason to bring them here.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

First of all, what does a "hometown" mean to someone without a home? People in dire need of resources will go to wherever they think they will be able to best gain access to the resources they need.

Second of all, reducing all services for the homeless to mere "superior handouts" does a disservice to the noble work of the individuals and advocates who provide those services. It's a very one-dimensional way of looking at things, and very glass-is-half-empty at that.

Third, by saying "there is no benefit" you are ignoring the very obvious one, and that is the benefit to those in need of services receiving them. How much value does that hold with you? Apparently not as much as avoiding "creating problems for ourselves".

I don't want to give you a reason to "bring them here". I want you to see that helping people who really need it is worth something. Particularly, that it's worth more than avoiding the discomfort of a few inconvenient realities. Worth more even, dare I say, than a pittance of your property taxes.

Perhaps instead of advocating for fewer services in Lawrence, you should be advocating for better services in surrounding communities. It might stem the flow of homeless people into our city, and make you look like less of a heartless curmudgeon.

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 7 years ago

Good points and well articulated. Thank you for the positive contribution.

Lisa Rasor 7 years ago

Mr. Cromwell, what is it about the Franklin Park site that makes it "better than any other site"?

  • It's far away from all city services (such as health care, workforce center, social services).
  • It is not on an existing bus route.
  • Children staying at the shelter will have no place to play, and no way to easily get to and from activities with their peers. (I'm not talking about school--the school bus will transport them to and from school. But what about after school, or on weekends, or in the summer?)
  • It is on the other side of a busy highway, which must be crossed in order for folks to get into town. Now, tell me again why you think this site is so good, Mr. Cromwell.

xclusive85 7 years ago

There is a bus that goes out to the East Hills Business park. Isn't that where this site is?

Brian Hall 7 years ago

The bus goes to the East Hills Business Park. The proposed site is on the other side of K-10 next to the jail near the corner of E. 27th & Franklin Road.

xclusive85 7 years ago

IC, i thought it was over actually in the business park.

Maracas 7 years ago

It's good because it's not downtown.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 7 years ago

I see pot holes that need fixing,trash on the sides of the streets that need picked up and lots of other projects that MOST of the homeless (not all) could do as payment for the services they receive.. And would also help with budget issues the city/county are dealing with. Bedsides the budgetary benifets, this would provide the homeless with a connection to the community and a sense of pride of contributing. I'm completley in favor of temporarily helping people in need, but I have no tolerance for capable people who expect something for nothing. There are those that aren't capable mentally or physically to provide these types of services, but I bet they are a fraction of those that are utilizing the services..And this minority could benefit greatly from the professionals that are provided if these professionals workload was reduced daily by the majority of their caseload out working during the day. Part of the community is homeless. No doubt. We should help as a community. No doubt. But homeless isn't a excuse for many not to be responsible to earn these services they receive.

Maddy Griffin 7 years ago

Best post on this thread. It actually offers solutions instead of just the usual whining about the problem. I agree totally. We all can use a little help once in a while. And there are a lot of us who are only one paycheck or a serious illness away from losing our homes. A temporary hand-up should not be confused with a hand-out.

monkeyhawk 7 years ago

There is a vast difference between my winter home and Lawrence as to how they treat the homeless problem. In "paradise" there is no shelter. There are laws against loitering and no hand outs. Most people who encounter a vagrant do not give them anything.

The city council just voted to take the benches out of one of the parks (right by the library ironically) because of the drinking, drugs and public urinating. They vow to remove the benches from other parks if need be. There is definitely no pandering to this element, and remarkably, there are not riots in the streets or demonstrations demanding social justice and that taxpayer money be used to make the bleeding hearts feel better.

jafs 7 years ago

I imagine your "winter home" is in a more conservative place.

What happens to the homeless folks?

gudpoynt 7 years ago

your winter home sounds like a cold and despicable place.

Q: What happens to the homeless folks? A: Death, arrest, or they move to another town.

I'm sure that the mortuary, corrections facilities, and neighboring towns all appreciate the efforts of your city council in working to "solve" the homeless problem.

50YearResident 7 years ago

They all come to Lawrence for the excellant bed and breakfast and daycare provided by people like you. Then they are "our" problem.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

I think where we differ, is that I would consider it "our" problem whether they live in Lawrence or not. They are humans after all. My being sympathetic to their situation has little to do with how many of my tax dollars go toward the services aimed at helping them.

Suppose you got your way, and drastically cut services for the homeless in Lawrence. Then say, hypothetically, that 30% of the homeless people in Lawrence made their way to Topeka in search of resources.

Then say you moved to Topeka. What would you do then? Cut homeless services in Topeka? Kick them on down the road to whatever town you don't live in?

50YearResident 7 years ago

I would tell them of the superior services offered in Lawrence, with a brand new shelter comming soon.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

of course you would, you adorable nymbyist you

monkeyhawk 7 years ago

"your winter home sounds like a cold and despicable place." Actually quite the opposite because there are not "compassionate" people like you there. That is part of what makes it a paradise and that is why I never name it. Progresso/libs would just ruin it.

"A: Death, arrest, or they move to another town." Correcto.

"I'm sure that the mortuary, corrections facilities, and neighboring towns all appreciate the efforts of your city council in working to "solve" the homeless problem." Not correcto - they don't want them either.

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