Sunday marks another milestone – a major one – for the Lawrence Community Shelter as the facility for the area’s homeless nears its opening.
From noon to 4 p.m. it will have an open house for the public. Meanwhile, it will complete its preparations to host its targeted guests in its new location in a renovated former industrial building at 3701 Franklin Park Circle east of the Douglas County Jail; the site is south of 23rd Street on the eastern edge of the city.
The 15,000-square-foot building will provide room for 125 beds (real beds, not mats), with accommodations for families, plus a dining room and office space for agencies that provide a range of services geared to assist those people who have enrolled in the shelter’s formal programming.
When the $3 million shelter opens, possibly by Christmas, it will represent the completion of another lap in a long race for Director Loring Henderson, shelter board Chairman John Tacha and hundreds of other community members, groups, volunteers and donors who have met, debated, worked, struggled, faced disappointment and — finally — after years of effort, found sufficient money, along with enabling policies, supportive government decisions and adequate resources to make the shelter a reality.
Their efforts would not have been successful without action and assistance from Douglas County and the city of Lawrence to secure the location and to provide funding to augment the generous contributions of numerous organizations and individuals who supported the shelter’s capital campaign.
The real test of success will come once the shelter has opened its doors and is able to concentrate its efforts on local homeless clients interested in working with case managers to help with job searches, housing assistance, medical issues, substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, disability benefits and other situations to address the circumstances that led to their homelessness.
The community should do more than wish the Lawrence Community Shelter well. It should show its continued interest and support. Spending a bit of time at the open house would be a good way to start.