Many good things have happened in Lawrence during the past 11 months, and one of the best was the successful effort to raise the money to establish a new facility for the city’s homeless. Most communities in the country — large and small — have a homeless population and, for years, Lawrence residents have debated how to address this issue.
There were no easy answers and no consensus among local residents about how to move forward. Even so, a growing number of local residents acknowledged the need to move the Lawrence Community Shelter from its current downtown location and asked why Lawrence couldn’t lead the way and provide an example that other communities would want to emulate.
Local businessman John Tacha helped spearhead the effort to find a new site for the shelter. It was a time-consuming and frustrating task. More than 40 sites were considered for the shelter, and, in every case, there were those who rejected the proposal. After months of disappointing efforts, Tacha and a small group of helpers — with a key bit of help from Douglas County officials, who purchased some adjacent property — worked out an arrangement to obtain a vacant warehouse near the Douglas County Jail that could be converted into a new facility where homeless people could seek both shelter and training.
Loring Henderson has done a superior job of managing the shelter at 214 W. 10th St. since 2004. He is a unique individual in many ways, and the community, as well as those who find themselves in need of shelter, are extremely fortunate to have his leadership.
The Tacha/Henderson team deserves the thanks and appreciation of Lawrence residents for their unwavering commitment to finding a site for an expanded shelter and raising the necessary funds to make the project a reality.
They and their helpers also have done an excellent job of telling the story and explaining the need for a shelter to help a variety of individuals who, for one reason or another, find themselves without a home or, often, much of a future.
Over the years, Lawrence has been a leader in many respects, and now, Lawrence will be a leader and serve as an example to others of how to address the needs, challenges and opportunities facing the community’s homeless population.
All parties are winners in this important effort.