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Archive for Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Longtime advocate for the homeless struggles to keep her own home

Saunny Scott is a longtime advocate for the homeless and other causes in Lawrence. Saunny balances her determination to help others with her own struggles, including the possibility of losing her house in East Lawrence. She also cares for an adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

Saunny Scott is a longtime advocate for the homeless and other causes in Lawrence. Saunny balances her determination to help others with her own struggles, including the possibility of losing her house in East Lawrence. She also cares for an adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

December 31, 2013

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Saunny Scott has done a lot over the years to ensure that people in Lawrence had a place to rest their head at night. Now she not might have a place of her own.

Saunny Scott is a longtime advocate for the homeless and other causes in Lawrence. Saunny balances her determination to help others with her own struggles, including the possibility of losing her house in East Lawrence. She also cares for an adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

Saunny Scott is a longtime advocate for the homeless and other causes in Lawrence. Saunny balances her determination to help others with her own struggles, including the possibility of losing her house in East Lawrence. She also cares for an adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

Saunny, a longtime advocate for the homeless in Lawrence, is at risk of losing her own home in East Lawrence after her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, had her disability benefits cut.

You would think Saunny, 76, has had her hands full enough at home to not worry about what's going on in the community, but that's not in her character. She has served on task forces dedicated to improving accessibility for people with disabilities. She sat on a committee to encourage the city to start providing bus service at night, which it did. And, not least of all, she has helped get numerous homeless people off the streets of Lawrence, even going as far as to let some stay at her place.

"Sometimes at meetings I think, Why am I still sitting here?" she said over tea on a recent day, a "Listen to Women for a Change!" pin attached to her blue cardigan. "But the issues still exist. And I'm not very good at letting go."

A few decades ago, when another longtime local activist, Hilda Enoch, started the Coalition for Homeless Concerns, one of the first persons she called was Saunny. "She's a very dynamic person, she's a leader and she understands the plight of the homeless person," said Enoch, 79. "It seemed like a natural thing to ask her."

Their efforts led to the creation of a drop-in day center and later an overnight shelter. The two eventually combined to become the Lawrence Community Shelter.

Organization builder

In the 1960s, Saunny served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, where she founded a women's auxiliary at a local hospital. "That was my first experience with starting an organization and I had to go home and leave it behind. These," she said, referring to the groups she's involved with in Lawrence, "I don't have to leave."

To Loring Henderson, executive director the Lawrence Community Shelter, that's just another example of Saunny's effectiveness as a leader. "She sees a need and she helps to put together groups of people who can work on that need and builds organization that seem to have an ability to survive," he said. "I know she's not fickle and she's not fly by night. She's very much dedicated and stays with things."

Saunny came to Lawrence to study toward her master's degree at Kansas University. She had an interest in childhood development, with a focus on teaching language to deaf children.

She had an interest in raising them too. She has adopted four children, each with different severities of physical or developmental disabilities. Her first child, a son, was deaf and blind (he has since died). Her oldest daughter, who is now in Texas, is severely hearing impaired. Her third child, a son who initially had a hearing problem that has since improved, resides and works in Lawrence. Her youngest daughter has cerebral palsy and lives at home with Saunny.

Years ago, Saunny was rear-ended on the highway by a driver who had fallen asleep. She hurt her back and was diagnosed with arthritis. Continuing school became too difficult for Saunny, whose husband had left her years earlier, so she worked part time and took care of her kids.

A tough situation

A few years back, Saunny helped her youngest daughter, Bea, start her own business, washing and folding towels for salons and fitness centers. Because of a lack of customers, though, Saunny says the operation has become more of a hobby at this point for her daughter.

But when her daughter's disability payments were cut by about $500 a month recently because she owed money related to the business venture, Saunny could no longer afford her mortgage payments. She's waiting to find out if she can refinance.

Her house isn't just any house. Besides being the one she's lived in since 1986, its main level is fully accessible for people with disabilities, complete with a wheelchair ramp, grab bars and wide doorways.

Saunny also has to now rely on a mix of food stamps, senior meals and a local food pantry to keep herself and her daughter fed. Even so, she plans to continue her advocacy, including pushing the city to offer bus service on Sundays and holidays, expanding affordable housing in Lawrence and abolishing the death penalty in Kansas and elsewhere.

During a recent interview, Saunny told the story of how, when someone called to tell her that her eldest son had died, her younger son picked up the phone at the same time and heard everything. He immediately came downstairs and hugged her. "It would have been so much harder if I were alone," she said. "Things like that happen and you think: angels, serendipity.

"I'm looking for another angel experience, I guess," she said, referring to the situation with her home. "But of course they don't happen when you're looking for them."

Comments

JM Andy 12 months ago

Is there someone collecting money for this woman? I would like to donate.

12 months ago

There isn't any organized effort underway to raise money for Saunny. If someone starts one, we can spread the word about it. —Giles Bruce, LJWorld

Beator 12 months ago

Why doesn't some of the people that she helped over the years, help her?

Rae Hudspeth 12 months ago

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Not everyone who has been helped is in a position to be able to repay the generosity that was given without expectation or repayment, and in some cases, not even people who say that they will gladly "help back" ever really come through.
If they are also on disability, they've had their own money cut back as well. "Why" is a very good question.

Dan Eyler 12 months ago

I'm afraid we are running out of other people's money. What to do now?

Fred Mertz 12 months ago

What do we do now?

First we must stand up and admit we have a problem. No finger pointing. We stand and say WE have a problem. The current model doesn't work. The war on poverty has failed. The war on drugs has failed. Tax incentives and subsidies for businesses have failed. Foreign aid , nation building and being the world's police has failed.

We don't need to sing Kumbaya , but we need to join together and figure out how to right this country. Our people are poor, our people are angry and our future, if we don't choose a different path is bleak.

I have solutions, but the first step is admitting we have a problem.

Leslie Swearingen 12 months ago

I have to agree with Dan. Economic reality is tough for everyone. It is no longer safe to assume that someone who lives in a nice home and has a job is financially secure and therefore able to help others. What you see is just the tip of the iceberg.

Cheryl Morris 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Why doesn't someone that knows her contact the Elken show ? There is a place on her website to nominate her for helping others . Ellen honors others and may help out with expenses.

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