The Lawrence Community Shelter may have moved out of downtown, but one place where it continues to dwell is on the Lawrence City Commission’s agenda.
Scheduled Tuesday is discussion of a transportation issue related to clients who now reside at the new facility at 3701 Franklin Park Circle on the east edge of the city. That’s a location well removed from support services, located elsewhere in Lawrence, that shelter clients need to access.
To provide that access, Lawrence Transit has changed a bus route alignment to help serve shelter clients. An analysis shows an increase in ridership of 50 passengers daily that staff believes is attributable the shelter’s new location.
The city currently provides the shelter and related agencies $8,000 (in addition to other funding) to be allocated for bus passes and work clothing for clients. More, apparently, is needed and the staff recommends that the city provide additional funding in next year’s budget.
A proposal supported by a number of community organizations suggests that the city simply create a free stop at the shelter. The transit staff balks at this because it represents a major philosophical shift, and carries with it operational and cost issues, as well as the possibility it will open the door to other requests for free service. It also seems to have logistical problems in that people could board the bus for free at the shelter but might have to pay for a return ride.
Perhaps there’s some middle ground, such as an identification card system for shelter clients. Kansas University students use their ID cards, although student fees support the bus system. If that’s not feasible, reduced price passes such as those being sold to youngsters this summer might help address the circumstances.
This is a problem that had been expected when the shelter moved. It’s a problem that may decline with time but is unlikely to go away. The city needs to take a serious look at the alternatives, including exactly how much revenue the city would lose by offering shelter clients free or reduced-price rides. More tax money moving from one city pocket to another does not rate as the best answer.