A bigger building is on the way for the Lawrence Community Shelter, but so too is a bigger request for public funding to support the county’s lone homeless shelter.
Leaders with the Lawrence Community Shelter have started the process to ask for $100,000 from both the city and the county. Shelter leaders are asking the city and the county to make a special, unbudgeted appropriation for 2012, and then they would like the funding included in the governments’ future annual budgets.
“We are looking for more support in many areas,” said Loring Henderson, shelter director. “We’re the only shelter in the county, and our numbers have gone up significantly.”
Henderson said without the additional funding, the shelter will face a budget shortfall of about $100,000.
Henderson said the shelter has seen an across-the-board increase in numbers of people needing help, but the increase has been particularly sharp in families and children seeking shelter.
In 2009, the shelter served 629 individuals, 14 families and 24 children. In 2011, those numbers had grown to 685 individuals, 44 families and 75 children.
“When we started providing support to families, it often was two to four families at any given time,” Henderson said. “Now, many days it is 12 to 14 families.”
By mid-September, the shelter is scheduled to move out of its downtown location and into a larger building in eastern Lawrence near Douglas County Jail.
Henderson said the need for more funding isn’t directly tied to the higher operating expenses that will come with a larger building. Instead, he said the shelter’s budget is strained because it has had to hire an additional person to staff an overflow shelter site.
The shelter’s building at 10th and Kentucky is licensed to sleep 75 people, but the shelter routinely has had 100 people per night throughout the winter. The shelter rotates among several churches to house the overflow guests.
Henderson said the shelter has hired a new part-time development director to increase private fundraising efforts. The shelter receives about $125,000 in donations from individuals, plus raises another $20,000 through fundraising events.
Both the city and the county currently do provide some funding for the shelter’s operations. The county provides the shelter about $15,000 in operational funding. The city’s 2012 budget includes about $57,000 in general fund revenues for the shelter, and about $36,000 that comes from alcohol tax revenues the city collects.
The shelter has a total budget of about $725,000.
The funding request has some support on the City Commission. Commissioner Bob Schumm said he thinks the shelter’s fundraising campaign for its building project has made it more difficult to raise funds for basic operating expenses.
“I really believe we need to step up and make sure this works,” Schumm said. “We’re so close to a big success here.”
City commissioners are scheduled to formally receive the request Tuesday, and likely will ask staff to prepare a report on the issue.
County commissioners haven’t yet set a date to consider the request, County Commissioner Mike Gaughan said. Gaughan said he didn’t yet have a sense of how the request would be viewed by the commission.
“Obviously in this economy, there are more families facing homelessness and economic woes,” Gaughan said. “The shelter is just doing what it can to prepare to help.”