Hundreds of people toured the Lawrence Community Shelter’s future home Sunday, taking advantage of an afternoon open house to ask staff questions about the soon-to-be completed new shelter.
The converted warehouse space at 3701 Franklin Park Circle isn’t ready to move into yet, but Loring Henderson, director of the shelter, said work should be complete by Dec. 21, and he hopes the move from the current location at 10th and Kentucky streets can be finished by the end of the year.
On Sunday, Henderson was busy shaking hands and answering questions about floor plans and meal schedules.
“For us, this is a ‘thank you’ to the community,” Henderson said. “They built it. We want them to be able to see what they did.”
The new location will be able to house 50 more people than at the current location and, for the first time, will offer three meals a day, seven days a week. With more than 7,000 additional square feet in the shelter’s living and working areas, there will be space for private rooms for families, a medical clinic staffed by volunteers, and more showers and lockers. Some guests sleep on mats at the current shelter location, but at the new shelter they will have beds.
The new location will also have 10,000 square feet of vacant warehouse space that it plans to use for job training programs and partnerships with businesses in the future.
Henderson said Sunday that he was only a little surprised at how many people showed up for the open house, which was organized primarily by a committee from the capital campaign that raised $3.3 million for the project, mostly from local donors.
Kent Winters-Hazelton, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, said he was interested in the open house because the shelter has been working with his church, as well as others in the community, for years. Some members of his congregation were there too, among the crowd.
“It shows the great support this community has for the shelter,” Winters-Hazelton said.
At the new location, one of the shelter’s closest neighbors will be the Douglas County Jail. Mike Caron, program director at the jail, came to the open house partly because many of people he sees struggling to stay out of jail also struggle with homelessness. He said he was interested in the new programs that the shelter will have to help people get back on their feet.
“A lot of people, when they come out, they have no options whatsoever,” he said. “It’s so helpful to have a shelter with real programs.”
John Carr and his wife, Stefanie, volunteer at the current shelter. They both said they came to the open house thinking about the doubts many residents, including their friends at the shelter, have had about the move. Some had wondered about the frequency of meals while others worried about the new location’s relatively distant location at the far east edge of town. But the city has added a bus route that now goes right by the shelter site, and the Carrs said they were impressed with how the new shelter was shaping up.
“We’re going to go back to our friends, and we’ll them it’s incredible,” John said.