Archive for Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kansas homeless shelters report increase in clients; directors seeing more families

January 25, 2012


Homeless shelters across Kansas and the country participated in the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count this week, trying to come up with an accurate picture of homelessness.

Some shelter representatives in Kansas — which conducted the count Wednesday — say one thing will be clear from the federal survey: They’re packed and the numbers keep growing.

“This is probably as bad as it’s been,” said Emily Wagner, director of the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, which can house up to 47 people.

Wagner said her shelter is now almost always full, and this year was the first time people were turned away on some nights.

Locally, overcrowding at the Lawrence Community Shelter has been a constant issue, with the shelter using overflow space on most nights to accommodate the 100 or so seeking shelter, said Loring Henderson, shelter director. A move to a larger facility in September will allow the shelter to house up to 125 people, but for the time being, he said, “It’s pretty packed.”

The annual counts, mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, have given a clearer picture of homelessness in Kansas during the past few years.

In 2007, the count identified 2,111 homeless people in the state. That number dipped to 1,811 in 2009, but jumped by more than 40 percent to 2,570 in 2011. Douglas County has seen homeless numbers double between 2009 and 2011, from 112 to 226. The state’s four largest counties — Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte — also saw large increases during the past few years, according to Point-in-Time statistics.

The results of this year’s count may be deceiving, however, as it will focus only on people in shelters and will not include people who are camping, sleeping in cars, or doubled up with friends and family. In 2013, a more comprehensive survey will be done.

In addition to a general increase in the homeless population, shelters also report that in the past year, there’s been a shift in who’s showing up at their doors. Instead of more single men, Wagner said her shelter is seeing more single woman and families, something also seen at the Lawrence Community Shelter, which has been forced to increase the number of family areas during the past year. At the Topeka rescue Mission, director Barry Feaker said they’re seeing a similar dynamic, serving about 90 children in 2011.

But even larger increases were probably prevented by federal dollars from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, or HPRP, said Shannon Oury, executive director at the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority.

The funding was designed to prevent high-risk families from becoming homeless or quickly re-housing families who had become homeless. Since 2009, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority has received more than $700,000 in funds for the program. Locally, the dollars made a significant impact, preventing 248 local families from becoming homeless and re-housing 48 other families, Oury said.

But the funding is running out across the country and the state. Oury said locally the HPRP funds expire in February.

“There’s no more ‘get you over this hurdle’” funding, she said, and that’s causing big a concern in the housing assistance world.

“There’s not another pot of money,” Oury said. “The money is getting scarcer and scarcer.”

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Homeless in Kansas

Annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count numbers from 2009 and 2011. Every two years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that communities conduct a survey of the homeless. This year, communities are also conducting a count, but it will only include those in shelters.


Ragingbear 6 years, 4 months ago

It's sad to see families homeless. They are not the ones that anyone can say that "wanted" it. On the upside, where kids are involved, state programs kick in much faster. So that is at least something for them. However, they are limited and shrinking. I am sure LDCHA is at a 2-3 year waiting list. For those that don't know, that is your government subsidized housing. The waiting list is how long you will have to wait after you apply to see a place open up for you in the system. This applies to both Public Housing or your subsidized (Section 8) voucher system.

What is really sad is how many will avoid getting help out of fear that Child Services will swoop in and steal their kids. They fail to realize that being homeless in itself is not grounds to have your kids taken. Getting other services for them is going to be better for them in any case.

As for crowding, I don't think that 125 is really the capacity they should have at the new location. They are going to need something closer to 200 because of surge issues.

I was in that entire system for 16 months. I fought tooth and nail to get off, and stay off the streets. It was not easy. It's like trying to climb up a steep hill that keeps crumbling under you and making you slide back.

repete66211 6 years, 4 months ago

Indeed. I wonder if the doubling of the number of homeless is in any way related to DoCo's (relatively) hospitable atmosphere. Could there be a connection between the quality of accommodations and the number of those wishing to take advantage of free room and board.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

How 'unchristian' of you; I assume you must not support Mullah Sam.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 4 months ago

They have just the same right to their choices as you have to yours. Your choices are not better than theirs so get over yourself.

As far as tax money goes, leave. Go to a country where you pay no taxes or better yet, just quit paying them till they are spent on the things you like.

Getaroom 6 years, 4 months ago

You are living in a bubble of your own making and it is full of pious attitudes and judgments. Indeed, get over yourself. You do not have a clue obviously, otherwise there would be no way you make these blatantly ignorant statements. Or you are simply a hateful human being - as are some of the other hateful and racist commenters crouching this blog. So, is there safety in numbers then?

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 4 months ago

Speaking of losers. Let's play "what if". What if a homeless lady gets pregnant and wants an abortion? Shouldn't she have that choice? Aborting a fetus sends it straight to heaven...many would rather take the homeless lady's choice away from her and she be forced into having a child that she can't afford. (don't worry, tax payers will support your child) That child could/would then be subject to a life of pain and suffering...the child would/could make choices on its own whereby it ends up giving their soul to the devil. Abortion would have sent that soul to God.

The scenarios are endless...I like playing the 'what if' game. Don't you?

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 4 months ago

Help the families, not the drunks. The able-bodied panhandlers who choose not to work are basically wasting shelter resources that would be better utilized to help homeless families that are trying to get their lives back in order. There should be a zero tolerance policy for the drunks. If they aren't willing to go to AA and make an attempt to get sober then forget them.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

"help the families, not the drunks" A good point. The problem with that is that it would force providers to make a value choice, something they are loathe to do. Saying this is right and this is wrong has been reduced substantially in our society. It is especially true on campuses around the country and even more true in schools of social welfare, the graduates of which will become those providers not willing to make those value choices.
So we will not help the families but not the drunks, though I agree with you. We should.

RDE87 6 years, 4 months ago

I 100% agree. I also think they should have to submit to drug/alcohol tests in order to receive assistance.

repete66211 6 years, 4 months ago

"help the families not the drunks"

When the word "homeless" is used many conservative folks think of the worst case scenario--drunks who (as long as they continue to drink) aren't much more than perpetual parasites--while liberals tend to see the opposite--those temporarily down on their luck. So your distinction is an important one that everyone should consider when offering an opinion in the matter.

That said, AA is a religious organization so you (the legal system) can't mandate entry into one of its programs. Addtionally, quitting drinking through AA is about as successful as quitting drinking without AA (about 20%).

geekin_topekan 6 years, 4 months ago

That would create a vacuum scenario.If word got out that Lawrence Kansas is giving free rides to Cali, the influx would be bigger than the Waka-fest.

For every one that accepted the free ride, another would take his/her place.

We could always become a police state like others have suggested and have a zero-tolerance for vagrancy but too many life-long Lawrence citizens are among the homeless.

bd 6 years, 4 months ago

"The funding was designed to prevent high-risk families from becoming homeless or quickly re-housing families who had become homeless. Since 2009, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority has received more than $700,000 in funds for the program. Locally, the dollars made a significant impact, preventing 248 local families from becoming homeless and re-housing 48 other families, Oury said."

Dang that figures to about $2400 per family??? Seems kinda high, I guess they have some overhead!

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

Characterizing the homeless with a broad brush is wrong, as with any group. Anyone without family backup, debt and no significant savings is 2-3 missing paychecks from the potential for homelessness. Generalizations are difficult. For example, in Topeka, the shelter reports 43% are homeless less than three months; 16% more than a year. 38% in who got services in Topeka had a high school diploma and 28% had some college hours. Beware of those with simple solutions to complex problems!

patkindle 6 years, 4 months ago

"fairness" = getting stuff for free.

"downtrodden" = anyone used by liberals as a justification for getting stuff for free.

"kind spirit" = when government takes your money to give to someone else for free; saying, Thank you, may I have another?"

"equality" = "I don't have any money, so give me yours".

"leaders making rules to help the least of us" = making everyone other than the leaders "the least of us".

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

"downtrodden" = anyone used by liberals as a justification for getting stuff for free." === Perhaps. Did you intentionally leave out downtrodden farmers, bond traders, bank executives, etc? They've been getting freebies too, you know.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 4 months ago

It is Obama's fault, our "food stamp president..

Ask any facist republican candidate.

Sally Piller 6 years, 4 months ago

The lack of compassion in these comments is amazing.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

+1. Don't listen to what politicians say; watch what they do. This applies to all of them regardless of political stripe.

pace 6 years, 4 months ago

I am just praying this doesn't impact the Koch's new tax cut.

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