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.”


DeaconBlue 2 years, 11 months ago

Who'd want to be homeless in Kansas. Bus tickets to Florida would be cheaper. Or put them in one of those empty NAFTA semis going to Mexico. Mexico is a beautiful piece of property that is closer to the equator to keep the homeless warm.


monkeyhawk 2 years, 11 months 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.


monkeyhawk 2 years, 11 months 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.


onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 2 years, 11 months 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.


Maracas 2 years, 11 months ago

It's good because it's not downtown.


Lisa Rasor 2 years, 11 months 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.

50YearResident 2 years, 11 months 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.


somebodynew 2 years, 11 months 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.


irvan moore 2 years, 11 months 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.


doc1 2 years, 11 months ago

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


blue73harley 2 years, 11 months ago

We will have an 18 million dollar drop-in center called the Lawrence Public Library.


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