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."


kernal 1 year 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:


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

So why does the Journal World tell where they are from? How many shelters are there in Kansas? If from Toronto, why pick Lawrence?

This is another play by Henderson to get more money! The commission will hand iit over .


Chelsea Kapfer 1 year 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?


consumer1 1 year ago

You just have to love the "compassionate" conservatives voicing their narrow minded view of people who are less fortunate than they are.

<<>> You just have to love the "compassionate" liberals voicing their narrow minded view of people who are less fortunate than they are.

Where does any person above claim membership in a political organization or make statements about being conservative???

"Facts please" this makes me laugh out loud!!


msezdsit 1 year 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."


kufan1146 1 year 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..


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

But Loring Henderson said sometime ago that one nite in Lawrence makes one a resident. So why does the Journal World waste time about where these people came from, instead of why they are here. Furthermore, Loring Henderson taught as I recall. That being said, why isn't he assisting those who need a GED. Hard to pass? Why is it so difficult only for those at the shelter and not for others.

The journal World does like to stir controversy. This is a ploy for more money and to support the a girl Scouts rummage sale to benefit the shelter. Why isn't the sale at The Shelter, after all the plan is to build a playground at the shelter.

I don't begrudge the young ladies in the girl scouts for wanting to help others, but are tehe residents going to participate at the sale and put forth some effort to help themselves!


Patricia Davis 1 year 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.


friendlyjhawk 1 year 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.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Certification in housekeeping? They could have started at 10th and Kentucky, instead of volunteers.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

What attracted someone from Kansas city , Toronto (wow) that's a long way, and tonganoxie? Where is rest of the story Giles Bruce. And a mohawked baby. Such a visual image.

My great grandmother went to the poor farm after her husband died, and four of her children were placed out and put, three on the orphan train.

Loring Henderson is making a a play for more money! Tell us more about the person from Toronto. No shelters there?


irvan moore 1 year ago

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


skinny 1 year 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


mikekt 1 year ago

Well, they have an area with a desk and some chairs for a GED class . That is an improvement over before .

For sure, this is a project that will never be perfect because it has had too many expected outcomes that different groups expected it to unrealistically accomplish, for anyone to make them all come true, at once .....and some will never be realized because they were just over the top wish makings !


ImRonBurgandy 1 year ago

Yay, Crime is already going up for those nice folks in Prairie Park.


Tony Kisner 1 year ago

Any Lawrence residents there or just transplanted homeless?


rooster 1 year 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.


50YearResident 1 year 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.


shanep 1 year 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!


mcontrary 1 year ago

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


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year ago

Next up...the request for funding.


frankfussman 1 year 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.


Bob Forer 1 year ago

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


oletimer 1 year 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".


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