Archive for Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ongoing issues

Relocating the local homeless shelter isn’t a cure-all for moving homeless people and panhandlers out of downtown.

May 25, 2011


It would be nice to believe that moving the Lawrence Community Shelter will bring an end to concerns about the presence of homeless people and panhandlers in the downtown area.

Unfortunately, as two city commissioners pointed out last week, that almost certainly won’t be the case.

Shelter officials deserve support in their ongoing efforts to move the shelter to a new location. However, the more structured job training program they envision at their new facility probably won’t suit a certain segment of the homeless population that uses the current shelter primarily as a place to drop in, take a shower or sleep.

What will those people do? That’s the apt question being asked by Hugh Carter, who recently joined the Lawrence City Commission.

Shelter Director Loring Henderson confirms that the new facility won’t serve all the homeless population that currently uses the downtown shelter. A number of people will continue to be downtown taking advantage of meal sites and other services, he said. For that reason, he thinks the city will continue to need a drop-in center, although not necessarily one run by the Lawrence Community Shelter.

So, even though moving the shelter out of downtown is a good move, Carter is right to draw attention to the fact that not all homeless people will relocate to the new facility.

Another tough issue is the continuing presence of downtown panhandlers. Mayor Aron Cromwell said last week he is disappointed that earlier discussions about this problem haven’t resulted in more action.

Those discussions focused on trying to direct both panhandlers and those who want to help them to social service agencies that provide such help. People sitting on the sidewalks with signs asking for money don’t qualify as aggressive panhandlers but they also don’t contribute to the ambiance of downtown Lawrence. Many passersby want to help, but it’s hard to understand each individual’s situation or whether the money they collect will be put to good use.

City officials have considered posting signs to discourage donations to panhandlers as well as providing ways for people to contribute to social services that help the homeless. For whatever reason, none of those efforts has gotten off the ground.

The city continues to struggle with the best ways to deal with panhandling and services for the homeless. Although some local residents may be holding out hope that both of those problems will be solved by moving the Lawrence Community Shelter, it’s good that city commissioners are taking a more realistic view.


nativeson 7 years ago

The Lawrence Community Shelter has completely changed the dialog about the homeless issue. During the mid-2000s, the City spent time, money and effort to identify a plan that included emergency shelter and a housing vision for those in need.

LCS continues to focus dialog on those who will be unwilling to use the services that a new facility provides to move people toward a self-sufficient lifestyle. This was never the intention of the homeless task force and case workers funded by the City. At some point accountability must be interjected into this dialog.

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

What? It takes a city official saying so to make it true? I have been saying this for years. The shelter move would only remove the invisible population of homeless, the ones you never knew were there in the first place. The high profile homeless, the ones you see on Mass, and loitering around the drop-in center, some for decades now, will remain.

What's worse though, they will have nowhere to hang out. There will be no centralized place for them to loiter so their presence will be exaggerated. They will be found in places they were not to be found prior.

Getaroom 7 years ago

With a growing and struggling economy it seems clear the population of homeless will only grow, whether our fellow US citizens are seen or unseen. Several of the current downtown "street people" we see do have relatively local ties to the area although not all. I do not believe that moving the drop in shelter will eliminate the presence of panhandling. That is a "social need" if you will, for those who are socially challenged or anti social, even arms length, some social connection is important. Panhandling is an economy in itself. Individuals must decide on their own whether to give money to those asking either through signs or directly asking passersby for money. Is it even possible to make a legal requirement that they leave the sidewalks and be unseen? This issue is not going away. If you don't like what you see well then stop looking.

bad_dog 7 years ago

Is it a legal requirement? I believe the city passed an ordinance forbidding panhandling within 2 blocks of Mass St.

As far as "not liking-stop looking" it can be a challenge when they walk right up to you or catcall/comment at your teenage daughters.

d_prowess 7 years ago

To play devil's advocate on the topic, why do we need a drop-in center for those homeless that would not want to use the new LCS because they have no interest in the jobs program that will be offered? Is that not just enabling those homeless folks that have no desire to stop being homeless?

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

Because without one they would be roaming the city at large. A drop in center offers a retreat from the streets, food, shelter when it rains or snows, an address, message number and other basic needs that have become a part of our society, the nation with the highest standard of living in the world.

If you think that homeless are an eyesore now, see what happens when a drop-in center is not available. The library, KU, hospital lobby, judicial building, city hall, the river front mall, and any other public location will become their new daily hang out. The local police department is asking for mo money as is, without LOS they would be strained beyond recognition by nuisance calls.

A drop-in center is not a friendly gesture to the homeless, it has become a necessity to keep the population centralized, if you choose to look at it as such.

d_prowess 7 years ago

But would not the current LCS offer all of the things you state above with the only requirement that you work toward putting yourself in a position to have all of those things (food, shelter, address, etc.) on your own in the future?
And you indicate that the homeless are an eyesore and things would only get worse without a drop in center. How many of those homeless though would leave for a different community if we did not have a drop in center? 10%, 20%...?
And why do you say it is necessary to keep the homeless population centralized to a single location? Are they all criminals and this just makes it easier for the police to watch them? Or does this make it easier for you to simple avoid this small area and therefore not see them at all?

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

Pt. 1. Not sure of what the question is but I will try to answer. The current shelters offers all of those things without expecting the clients to seek to better themselves. The new shelter would (I think) have stipulations attached to their services but the only people who receive them are the ones who are currently seeking to better their situation anyway. You just don't see them today because they do not fit the stereotype. They are not bumming change, they are either working or looking for work. They wear clean clothes and are not intoxicated or arguing with their bicycles. Pt2. I did not indicate an eyesore, I am only reiterating this forum. That being said, the current shelter offers a place for them to go. Without it, there would be no place for them to go so they would be on the streets, literally. Some would leave. The young and healthy ones with nothing better to do but panhandle, for instance. Many of our current homeless are lifelong residents of Lawrence and they are not going anywhere. The mentally ill would simply give Simon some company. What is the cost of jail/welfare as opposed to the shelter? Pt 3. Of course they are not all criminals. But a centralized location has benefits that the anti-homeless don't understand. There is much to be said for indoor toilets for instance.

BleedingheartofLawrence 7 years ago

I don't understand why people in Lawrence think that Lawrence has a unique problem -- MANY other cities have dealt with homelessness, and many have created successful programs for working with their homeless population. Why should Lawrence think it has to reinvent the wheel? Just 20 minutes to the west, in Topeka, the coalition of service providers working to help families experiencing homelessness was heralded by a regional HUD administrator as the most impressive collaboration she had ever seen. One part of the continuum, the Topeka Moving Ahead Program, is a 13 week job and life skills program that has helped hundreds of homeless persons obtain jobs, housing and other needed services. Lawrence has many models to emulate, not just Topeka; there are hundreds! Let's do it! We can help families experiencing homelessness and ourselves by not being narrow minded.

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

I'd be happy to buy you one. When do you want to leave?

deec 7 years ago

Putting them to work by force with compensation of a meal and bed would probably violate federal labor laws. Some of the homeless aren't physically or mentally capable of manual labor. Some have small children; who will pay for babysitters while the parent(s) work? What about the people who currently have paid jobs fixing roads and landscaping? Shall we make them unemployed so that the homeless can participate in indentured servitude?

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

Red, the least of society are as critical to our survival as the higher ups. Good job, good car, good neighborhood do not equate a good person. The least of the bums is essential to someone, somewhere. Having more money does not mean a person is less crazy. Look at BB. If he weren't so high functioning, he'd be on Mass. arguing with a tree over whether Jesus was white. Homeless veterans, served all of our interests at one time. Homeless parolee, made money for someone, somewhere. the City of EL Dorado is indebted to the homeless convict. Simon has contributed to the local economy because jailers are consumers. The rest, well, keep feeding the bears and they will keep hanging around. If you are so h-bent on removing individual rights and liberties, why not go with my original idea of punishing those who contribute to the problem of panhandling. The panhandlers are just acting naturally, with their hands out. Make it a crime to give them money.

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

My point exactly, the reason they hang around is simple. Panhandling is GOOD here. Plain and simple. When you witnessed this act of destruction, why did you not apprehend the person who violated the homeless person's human right to succeed on his own, and condemn him/her for contributing to the great problem that panhandling holds on downtown? Why did you not do your part and halt that little act of insanity when you had the chance? Are you waiting for the government to do it for you? I challenge you to find one "liberal" who thinks that homeless should be idle and intoxicated.

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