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Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Community homeless shelter faces overflow every day

September 4, 2011

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Lawrence Community Shelter staff member Elizabeth Stevens sits in a small office at the shelter on recent weekday looking at a list, tallying up the total number of people signed up for a spot at the shelter overnight.

Then she deducts families, who get first priority, followed by single adults with jobs and those who volunteer at the shelter, most of whom are guaranteed a spot. Those who are left may or may not have an indoor place to sleep.

On this night, it looks like the numbers of those needing a bed are creeping up toward 100 people. After the shelter fills up at 75 spots, “overflow” space is used at The Salvation Army and other area churches. That’ll house another 20. Do the math and it looks like there’ll be a handful of people without a spot. Stevens said those left out will probably try to stay with friends or camp somewhere in town, which is illegal.

“I dread doing the list,” Stevens said. “It’s stressful. At one point in time it gets to everyone.”

As the shelter has filled up with an increasing number of families, overall numbers have risen as well, said Loring Henderson, shelter director.

“It’s crowded everywhere,” said Henderson, adding that overall numbers at the shelter are as high as they’ve ever been — anywhere from 90 to 120 people look to the shelter for a place to stay every night.

The Annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count, which counts the total number of homeless people identified nationally on one particular day, shows Kansas homeless numbers have actually dropped 4 percent since 2007, to an estimated 2,024 homeless people in the state in 2010. But the local shelter, and shelters across the state, are saying they’re seeing more people at their doors.

Barry Feaker, director of the Topeka Rescue Mission, said his shelter is housing 100 more people per night this year as compared with 2010. Whereas the shelter used to house 35 or so children regularly, they’re routinely seeing 75 to 90, he said, which has accounted for much of the increase.

At the Salina Rescue Mission, which houses only men, numbers have more than doubled this year, said Steve Kmetz, executive director. The shelter housed about 20 men a night in 2010, and sometimes they now see 65 men a night.

Kmetz, along with his shelter director colleagues, is not optimistic that the numbers will go down anytime soon.

“They’re not going away,” he said.

The Lawrence Community Shelter is looking at plans to move to a larger location at 3701 Franklin Park Circle, just east of Douglas County Jail, Henderson said. The new location will house up to 125 people, but it’s not clear yet when such a move would be made.

Meanwhile, Henderson said he’s trying to secure more overflow space in preparation for the winter, when numbers typically rise even more.

Comments

sunny 2 years, 7 months ago

I enjoy watching them sit on the front porch sucking on their Cigs!

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moot 2 years, 7 months ago

it's simple. we kill the shelter.

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peartree 2 years, 7 months ago

I don’t understand this “us vs. them” idea when we are talking about other Kansans and Midwesterners. I understand the fear that we will be overrun with people who have not been helped in their own communities, but remember that there are many, many shelters that are simply at capacity. There are dozens of shelters in the Midwest; Lawrence not a lone beacon for the homeless. http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/ I am proud to live in a town that will not turn away a child. I cannot imagine standing at the door of the shelter and saying to a child, “Sorry, kid, but you’re from Nebraska. We don’t want your kind here.” If we are going to reject “outsiders,” they we will have to decide where the border lies for treating people like human being or treating them like trash. Eudora? Olathe?

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Stacy Napier 2 years, 7 months ago

They could knock most of them off the list if they would close the thing. Then the out of towners would leave. Why do we have to pony up tax dollars for anyone to live that is from Blue Springs MO? I doubt there are less than 20 people that are from Lawrence, and I mean lived here when they had a home or job. And most of those don't want a job or house anyway.

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clovis_sangrail 2 years, 7 months ago

They could probably knock a few people off that wait list by stationing an employee with a portable breathalyzer at the door. Then they could weed out the out-of-towners and report back on how long that list is after making those adjustments.

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skinny 2 years, 7 months ago

Redoctober, most people in the U.S. are gun owners. So with that thought in mind I welcome you to try!

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sierraclub 2 years, 7 months ago

Please define 'RICH." Is that anyone who has a job? Anyone who actually supports themself? Anyone who pays taxes? Anyone who actually owns anything? Anyone who does not ask for assistance? Anyone who takes responsibility for their actions?

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RedOctober 2 years, 7 months ago

We really do need a modern Robin Hood to take money from the rich by force.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 7 months ago

Shelter stories brought to you by those who demand a new shelter.

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