Archive for Monday, March 18, 2013

New homeless shelter adds space, privacy

March 18, 2013


Community Shelter benefit

Girl Scout Troop 7745 is having a rummage sale to benefit the Lawrence Community Shelter from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 6 at the American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth St. in Lawrence. The girls are hoping to raise enough money to build a playground at the shelter.

The troop is now accepting donations for the sale, and is asking for toys, books, furniture, household items, clothing or anything else that is in good shape and new or gently used.

Please email questions and requests to pick up items or call Linda Edman at (785) 842-1099 and leave a message.

A few months ago, Robert Marshall and his family — a son, fiancee, her daughter — slept on mats on the floor of the Lawrence Community Shelter, commingling with single residents of different ages and genders. One day last week, however, Marshall watched TV while his fiancee hung out in a private bedroom and Robert Jr., who turns 7 on Tuesday, stood surrounded by kids his own age playing with toys.

Marshall was at the new Lawrence Community Shelter, 3701 Franklin Park Circle, which residents and organizers say provides more space and privacy than the previous location at 10th and Kentucky streets.

"We had anywhere from nine to 13 families in a room. We slept on mats on the floor," said Marshall, 33, of Kansas City, Kan. "We were basically sardines in a can."

The shelter doubled in size after relocating Dec. 29 to southeast Lawrence, near the Douglas County Jail. The size increased from 7,700 square feet to 15,000, in a move organizers say was years in the making. The $3.2 million facility also has a 10,000-square-foot job-training center, which sits largely empty save for some desks and chairs for GED classes. Organizers say the space eventually will be filled with job-certification programs in such fields as housekeeping, maintenance and recycling.

The shelter currently has about 120 residents, with the space to fit roughly a half-dozen more. The old building had a capacity of 75 with nearby churches taking in another 15 people nightly.

"We were really really cramped," said Loring Henderson, the shelter's executive director. "It was also an old building. We were in a bad situation. Everybody was glad to get out of there."

Henderson said the new space gives residents a greater sense of stability, allowing them to focus on finding a job and place to live. The additional room was much needed, he added, as the number of people needing to stay at the shelter has shot up in recent years.

The family space is one of the major upgrades at the new shelter. It features separate bedrooms containing actual beds, three bathrooms with showers and tubs, and a common area that includes a TV, computer with Internet access and large selection of toys. On a recent day there, a teenage girl sat on a recliner reading a book, a middle-aged woman looked up job openings on the computer and a mohawked baby played with a deflated basketball.

"It's night and day for us," said Elizabeth Stephens, director of family programs at the shelter. "I think the whole shelter (at the previous location) was the size of our (new) family area."

Stephens said the relocation has "changed the momentum" of the city's efforts to find homes for the displaced. Residents, particularly children, have been less stressed out and thus less apt to fight and argue with one another. "They are much more able to make progress because they are not all standing on top of each other," she said, adding: "Families feel a lot more comfortable and have more dignity because they sleep in a comfortable bed and have a space to call their own."

The family section is already close to capacity, and Stephens recently has had to turn away several families. Still, she said three families have been able to move out since February, a faster turnover rate than at the old shelter.

In the rest of the facility, two residents have found housing while 10 have gotten permanent jobs since the move. Henderson, though, says the overall turnover rate has yet to change very much, something he attributes largely to the newness of the place. "So much of the first two months have been getting settled," he said.

City officials are taking a wait-and-see approach in determining the new facility's effectiveness. "I've always said we need to temper any expectations as far as improvement in the situation downtown with opening the new shelter," said City Commissioner Hugh Carter. "I don't know if we'll really know if it's had any impact on downtown or the number of homeless until we've had the four seasons to look at."

That said, Carter is confident the people of Lawrence made a good investment, pointing to the new center's stricter management plan and additional office space that allows for private meetings between residents and social-service providers. "This new shelter, I've always thought it should be renamed. It's more than just a shelter. It's a jobs program," he said. "I do believe with those tools and resources we'll see better results of getting people into homes or jobs."

One drawback of the new center is its location on the far southeast side of town, though the city recently added a bus stop nearby. "People have a hard time finding us," Henderson admitted, adding that the shelter now spends significantly more money on gasoline driving residents to appointments. It also pays more for utilities because of the larger facility.

Elsewhere in the shelter, men and women now have separate sleeping areas complete with bunk beds; a kitchen manager prepares multiple hot meals a day; a library features books donated by the Lawrence Public Library; and a garden soon will enable residents to grow their own food.

The shelter's medical clinic is always open, dispensing medication to residents as they need it. Emergency calls are down at the new building.

In addition, residents at the shelter continue to, as they have for the past six years, make dog treats under the Good Dog! label. "We're hoping to prepare them for the outside job market," said Maureen Bernhagen, one of the program's coordinators.

Carol Vesco, a 44-year-old resident from Tonganoxie, said she greatly prefers the new facility to the old one.

"We have our own beds. Before we had to sleep on the floor and wait for mats," she said. "We have more than one bathroom, which is nice, and more than a couple showers. It's a lot cleaner, also. The only thing I don't like is it's too far away and you can't walk downtown if you need to."

"It has a lot more space, more privacy, instead of having six people listen to your conversations," said Josh Kimmerly, a 28-year-old resident who is originally from Toronto. "We actually have a place to go eat. You can actually sit and have a meal."

His only criticism was that the center needed more bathrooms.

Marshall similarly favors the location of the former shelter, as it allowed residents to walk to the gasoline station or library. He also wishes the facility had a refrigerator so residents could have their own food. His only other complaint had more to do with the community's attitude toward the homeless. "I don't have my GED, and I live in a college town. Trying to find a job without the GED part is really complicated," he said. "I just think it's judgmental. Give someone a chance to actually prove themselves."

But the positives would seem to outweigh the negatives at this point. For one, Marshall said, the multitude of space out back gives children plenty of room to run around. "There are more activities for the family to do instead of being cooped up, depressed and lazy," he added.

Nearly three months in, things at the Lawrence Community Shelter look to be on the upswing.

"We're just extremely grateful to the community of Lawrence for its support," said Henderson. "We have a decent facility. We have a lot of ideas to put into practice as time unfolds. We're just getting started."


oletimer 5 years, 3 months ago

so in their zest to move out in the middle of nowhere, nobody seem to realize the extra costs associated with it? REALLY? more of the fine city planning. kind of like purchasing the old coop for a "business park".

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Where does it say in the article that they didn't realize the extra costs, oletimer?

A ll the article states is that there are additional costs because of the location. No where is it indicated that the folks running the shelter were not cognizant of these extra costs when they were in the planning process of expansion.

samsnewplace 5 years, 3 months ago

couldn't agree more with oletimer!! And why does Lawrence take such pride in catering to the homeless, most towns send them here because they don't want them?

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Quit complaining, Mr. Marshall, and earn your GED.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 3 months ago

This seems like an easy solution, but there are many people who can't pass the GED test for a variety of reasons. It is not an easy test. They could look into the diploma completion program, which doesn't require a test and students can work through the credits at their own pace.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 3 months ago

Each person's situation is unique, and I have no knowledge of Mr. Marshall's. However, Syc, your comment here is a sound-bite but rather facile, IMO. Structural barriers to persons in Mr. Marshall's situation--homeless, impoverished, and unemployed--are very real and have the equally real effect of preventing someone from completing a GED program. Deb Engstrom brings up an additionally good point that there may be other things that prevent Mr. Marshall from being able to complete his GED, about which we know nothing, but are also real. Rather than criticizing him as a "complainer," finding ways to eliminate those barriers or overcome personal barriers would be more effective.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 3 months ago

Or we could send him back to KCK and take care of someone from our own zipcode.

Frank A Janzen 5 years, 3 months ago

There are still folks on the street downtown that don't want to go to the new shelter. And, those at the shelter have a hard time getting a bus to town, or getting a token for the bus.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 3 months ago

I have been riding the bus for twelve years and have never heard of a bus token. I believe that the number five bus goes there and I am sure that the shelter must have bus schedules available. It cost and dollar to ride unless you are over 62 or disabled and then it is fifty cents. You can also get a transfer to complete your trip if you need one. Some drivers are more helpful than others, so keep that in mind. Since the number five does not go downtown you will need to transfer to a bus that does which can seem tricky when you first start riding.

Frank A Janzen 5 years, 3 months ago

It may not be a token, but the staff at the shelter give, perhaps the money itself, to folks to take the bus, but as one person at the shelter told me when I was there, they don't always get the money. They have to have a good reason before the staff will give them money.

bad_dog 5 years, 3 months ago

I just hate it when you have to have a good reason before someone gives you money.

mcontrary 5 years, 3 months ago

The location is terrible and there are probably homeless who find it too distant to be of help.

Shane Powers 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm glad they have such a great facility. That way it will seem more like "home" when I have to move in, cuz the rent is too damn high!

50YearResident 5 years, 3 months ago

Already within 1/2 dozen of capacity. Those residents interviewed are from Kansas City, Toronto and Tonganoxie. Where are the Lawrence residents that this is supposed to serve? Next thing to come about will be building on an addition because it's filled up.

frank mcguinness 5 years, 3 months ago

Downtown is not an ideal hangout for people in a bind anyway. Lots of drinking and other things that take away from the focus of getting back on your feet, particularly if you have a family. If these folks need things there are ways to get to dillons or checkers. If the business park ever takes off, between the park and the other business complex nearby there may be jobs available for those who complete their GED.

Tony Kisner 5 years, 3 months ago

Any Lawrence residents there or just transplanted homeless?

Jeanette Kekahbah 5 years, 3 months ago

if this shelter served more local people wanting to overcome hardships i'd be 100% happy to embrace it. but that's not what the track record is. and the policies, practices and party lines are truly problematic. please tell me where else you can check your drugs, booze and weapons upon entry at 7:00pm and have them returned upon your departure at 10:00am every day. and how loring can claim he doesn't house dangerous sex offenders when he's said it's common that newcomers arrive without any ID whatsoever and can take them 4 days to obtain ID? nice whitewash, ljw. but then the videotaping done at the community meeting held at the Boys & Girls Club back when loring was pushing to move into Don's Steakhouse was never shared either. wonder what George Stephanopoulos' fat check bought and if the bias is based on lined pockets or starry-eyed blindness. this is supposed to be a newspaper not a PR rag.

Jeanette Kekahbah 5 years, 3 months ago

finding a box full of syringes, bent-handled spoons and heroin and witnessing a drunk man falling into the ditch every 10 feet...both on 1300 Road, both within one week...there's some stats. and the sheriffs who responded flat out said they spend most of their time on non-local transients. the ability to walk/run safely as a woman in this area that meant so much to me since 1997 is gone.

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

Here as in the Prairie Park neighborhood or here as in Lawrence in general? Asking because your original post on this subject indicated you don't live in the Prairie Park neighborhood.

skinny 5 years, 3 months ago

It should be as requirement that only people that have lived in the City of Lawrence or Douglas County for at least two years can use the homeless shelter. I told you if they built it they would come, far and wide! Waste of money!

They couldn't have built it at a better location though. Across from the jail!!! LOL

irvan moore 5 years, 3 months ago

is there a limit on the length of stay for a resident of the shelter

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

As of the 2010 Census, Toronto, KS had a population of 281 people and 149 households. With a town that size, I doubt there are many job opportunites, or anywhere in Wheaton County.

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, meant Woodson County. Usually when a city is referred to in your state, the state isn't named. Besides Toronto, Canada, there are several states in the U.S. that have cities by that name. Seems to me LJW would have said Toronto, Canada, California, Missouri, etcetera, if they didn't mean the one in Kansas.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

It is so good that your are qualified to pass judgement on all of these people. Your only qualification : Your not in their shoes and that makes you better than they are at least in one eye.

friendlyjhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

I am thinking that LJW just interviewed the patrons from out of town just to stir up this kind of mindless controversey that the anonymous love to write on here.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 3 months ago

If in Brownbackistan we have to show proof of citizenship to vote.If out of state students are charged more for tuition, our shelter residents should be for Lawrence residents—with proof—only. In my heart of hearts, I think this mess should be turned into a recreation facility for east Lawrence.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 3 months ago

The GED test is difficult for more than just those at the shelter, particularly for those with different types of learning disabilities.

kufan1146 5 years, 3 months ago

I used to work at Yello Sub in college, and the owner donated about 75 sandwiches every Wednesday night. The man who came and picked them up rarely said thank you. It was infuriating.

If you build it, they will come, and oh boy have they come. Marshall should prove himself by getting his GED... of course no one will give you a chance if you don't prove yourself first. Lazy people..

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

Great job of stereotyping. Fortunately Jeff or Bob, whichever it may have been were able to realize that the man picking up the sandwiches didn't necessarily represent the people that were eating those sandwiches.

kufan1146 5 years, 3 months ago

Stereotypes are based in truth, hate to burst your bubble. And, also... I'm not a conservative and I am an atheist..

Chelsea Kapfer 5 years, 3 months ago

Maybe they thanked the owner of the business? Maybe the guy picking up the sandwiches was a hired worker who made several stops and didn't have time to make sure your feelings were properly coddled? If something like this "infuriates" you, then maybe a thorough self-assessment should take place.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

You just have to love the "compassionate" conservatives voicing their narrow minded view of people who are less fortunate than they are. Fortunately, the new shelter will be able to help a lot of people get back to a position in life that they can be self-sufficient. If your in the shelter it is because your lazy and don't want to work. That is as far beyond their nose as the "compassionate" conservative can see. Fortunately for the "compassionate" conservative, god is always on their side. While some people in the shelter may fit their stereotype, many people are there because for a multitude of other reasons. A multitude of reasons beyond that narrow minded "I'm better than you" point of view. Fortunately there are people who Know the definition of "compassion" is not "selfish and greedy."

Chelsea Kapfer 5 years, 3 months ago

Who cares if the residents are from Lawrence or not? These people are fellow human beings and why should arbitrary boundries decide who you want to help and who you don't?

Mark Currie 5 years, 3 months ago

I agree. We have a program at out church called family promise. We basically give homeless families a place to stay & decent food for a week, then they go to another church. Some of these people are in a situation, not of their own making. I am not going to talk about the families, but one man had children and was out of work. Family promise gave him a place to stay, he got a job, & a place for his family to live. I know there are some who abuse the system, but I would rather help them than build a pie in the sky super duper rec center 1/2 way to big springs, with Fritzel in the mix.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 3 months ago

Because there are limits of what can be done. Charity starts at home—and our local tax base—not in your head.

Chelsea Kapfer 5 years, 3 months ago

when you set limits for yourself you will find them.

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

For those who are concerned about people from out of town using the Lawrence shelter, there aren't a lot of options in Kansas as most of our towns are too small and/or poor to have homeless shelters. If you want to know how many there are and where:

Patricia Davis 5 years, 3 months ago

It is not our responsibility to be the homeless caretakers of this state.

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

So then that would also apply to the shelters in Topeka, Wichita, Salina, et al. Then what? Point them down the road to another state? If you look at the link for the directory I posted, Pittsburg, KS was suggesting people go to the shelters in Joplin, MO when they were full up. I bet the shelters in KC are pointing them West to Lawrence.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 3 months ago

Communities/counties should be responsible for the homeless the same way that counties have to reimburse county JuC0s when their residents attend other than local JuCos. If not that, then turn them away. We simply cannot afford this. Our tax monies should flow to our own residents. I would rather have more funding to our schools than to out of town/county/state homeless who will never pay their fair share.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

I could make a long list of what my responsibilities are, beginning with providing for my children, family, friends, etc. My list might include duty to country, community. My list might be very long. Your list might be very different, which is not to say your list is wrong, just different.

But the question is this, if my list of responsibilities extends beyond my ability to provide for those on my list, is it appropriate for me, or you, to prioritize? And if it is appropriate, then is it O.K. for me to say that because these people appear at the bottom of my list of responsibilities, I cannot provide for them? They must provide for themselves.

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