Archive for Tuesday, March 26, 2013

City Commission candidates disagree on how to serve homeless in downtown Lawrence

March 26, 2013


Lawrence’s homeless shelter is no longer located in downtown Lawrence, but questions about how to deal with panhandlers and the homeless in the central business district remain.

And Lawrence City Commission candidates aren’t united in their answers.

The field of six candidates were divided Tuesday on the idea of whether a drop-in center for the homeless would be appropriate in downtown Lawrence, now that the Lawrence Community Shelter has moved its facility to a site near the Douglas County Jail in eastern Lawrence.

“I don’t think by simply ignoring them that the problem goes away,” candidate Jeremy Farmer told a crowd of about 30 business owners at a Downtown Lawrence Inc. forum on Tuesday morning. “I don’t think by moving them the problem goes away either.”

Farmer and Scott Criqui — both candidates work in the nonprofit, social service industry — said they would be open to the idea of a drop-in center in downtown.

No proposal has been brought forward for a drop-in center, which would provide the homeless basic services and a place to congregate during the day. But Downtown Lawrence Inc. board member Mike Riling said rumors are circulating downtown of such a center, prompting concern from several business owners.

Farmer said he knew he was “going against the crowd” with his answer, but said a drop-in center may be necessary in downtown because the large crowds may always make the area a popular place for panhandlers and the homeless.

“My question is: Would you rather have them on the streets in front of your business or in a facility where we have a chance to get them some help?” said Farmer, the chief executive of the Lawrence food bank Just Food.

Criqui, who is an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In-Home Care, said any future proposal should include a “good discussion” about its location.

“But I would acknowledge there might need to be one downtown,” Criqui said.

The other four candidates in the field all expressed serious reservations about approving a drop-in center for the downtown.

“Clearly there are some needs there, but downtown is the worst place for that type of facility,” said Rob Chestnut, a chief financial officer for a Topeka publishing company.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx, a downtown barber shop owner and the lone incumbent in the race, said he wouldn’t support any proposal to locate a drop-in center downtown. Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care company, said she didn’t think a center was needed in downtown. Instead she would look to improve the public transportation options to the shelter’s new facility in eastern Lawrence.

Terry Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician, said allowing a drop-in center in the downtown would go against the city’s important goal of improving the safety of the downtown area.

Commissioners also were asked about how they would attempt to reduce panhandling in the downtown area.

Four candidates — Amyx, Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan — all said increased foot patrols in downtown likely would be part of the solution. But Riordan said the public needs to be better educated to not give money to the panhandlers.

“The play will fold if there is no audience,” Riordan said. “If you continue to feed the panhandlers, they will keep coming back.”

Farmer urged Downtown Lawrence Inc. members to become strong advocates for additional police funding that could be used to create a new downtown precinct for the department.

Soden, though, said she thought the city should focus its efforts on containing the “aggressive panhandlers,” rather than using the issue as a reason to significantly increase the police department’s budget.

“We just had a mill levy increase for police needs,” Soden said. “Hopefully that won’t happen more in the future.”

Criqui said he wasn’t sure what the solution for panhandling should be, but said the city should study how larger cities are handling the issue.

The general election will be April 2, although advance voting is currently under way. Voters can choose up to three candidates to fill three at-large positions on the five-member commission.


Seth Peterson 1 year ago

Soden, though, said she thought the city should focus its efforts on containing the “aggressive panhandlers,” rather than using the issue as a reason to significantly increase the police department’s budget. “We just had a mill levy increase for police needs,” Soden said. “Hopefully that won’t happen more in the future.”

Soden continues to give well thought answers and is very financially conscience, at the very least her statements are the least pandering.


bearded_gnome 1 year ago

City Commission candidates disagree on how to serve homeless in downtown Lawrence

---I'm sorry, but this headline immediately made me think of the twilight zone "to serve mankind" ... that "to serve mankind" referred to the title of a *cookbook by space aliens!


grandpaD 1 year ago

a simple cure to the homeless issues and numbers is a 20.00 bill and a ride to the county line------- follow the road and don.t look back. problem solved


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Did Amyx support moving the shelter? If so, then the issue is dead. It is now Loring Henderson's problem. No more money from the city.

By the way, did Amyx vote for the consent agenda last nite? more on that


circadian369 1 year ago

If Jeremy Farmer gets elected I am moving to Overland Park.


mikekt 1 year ago

Truthfully, I don't go down town because things are expensive there, parking is timed by meters .......and I don't have any illusions about the corner grocery stores of my childhood days coming back anytime soon !

Corner grocery stores were unmercifully killed by the predecessors to today's chain groceries stores that we shop in,... and our everything stores like Walmart & Target that are giving the chain stores a big fight for your buck

Truthfully, the attitude of the downtown merchants towards the homeless, is another reason why I avoid the place .

I don't mind people who pan handle, as long as they are not aggressive or pitching a guilt trip on others, to get their cash .

The poor, the homeless or the destitute, have a right to exist & and I am not into supporting an elitist zone for a few people who don't wish to have their own little vision of "tourist heaven" dirtied up by the less than desirable masses .

By the way ? What is so elite about a bar district ?

Who is the problem here ?

Some old wine-o on foot, who is respectfully pan handling... or some partied up drunken college kid or adult who is about to get behind the wheel of a car and head out to somewhere ?

No doubt, some of the finer products of down town ! How many end up in jail every week,.....or pan handling downtown, twenty years from now ?


Richard Heckler 1 year ago

No matter what business most all require the same level of knowledge to succeed. A pet sitting service is a money making business no question about it. And the character of a person is obviously well respected for citizens to place their pets in the hands of another person. Absolutely.

Not to mention the substantial amount of trust of that person which allows for a sitter to have access to homes in many cases.

While I spend very little time with Leslie Soden her lack of patience, inability to firmly grasp complex issues and lack of maturity are simply not apparent. Most certainly not. Lack of polish eh?????

Look what "polished" commissioners have been bringing to the taxpayers the last 6-8 years in the way of reckless spending ,handing out tons of corporate welfare and refusing taxpayers the right to weigh in by way of voting on many big dollar matters.

What taxpayers need is less polish and way more practical thinking,fiscal responsibility and respect for taxpayers thus allowing them to vote on matters that have the distinct possibility of draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.


SouthernMan 1 year ago

Of the six candidates, one would think Soden is closest to becoming homeless and should think much more seriously about the issue. I mean, her "business experience" is that of owning a pet sitting service. This lady has zero credentials to serve on Commission. Her level of impatience, inability to firmly grasp complex issues and utter lack of polish and maturity should automatically disqualify her from running for local office. Isn't Democracy wonderful?


Richard Heckler 1 year ago

This is not a new situation. It was said many times moving the drop in center would not keep the homeless out of downtown...... no way jose'.

This situation is NOT unique to Lawrence,Kansas. Most all cities or large towns have to deal with the results of a real bad economy. Homeless folks can be seen in the KCMO metro area such as downtown,in the plaza and some shopping centers.

They have no place to go and they like to eat....

Perhaps the former Allen Press building would be adequate?


Leslie Swearingen 1 year ago

This is a problem that has been part of the human experience since the beginning and will be with us until the end of time. (Which I think will be when our sun goes nova.) You cannot solve a human problem like one on a chalkboard neatly laid out. People, even those who belong to the underclass, are complex and have been subjected to influences that were not of their choosing.

Never, ever become too smug or sure of yourself. Never, ever believe that you are where you are, and have what you have because of your superior moral and mental accomplishments. Our lives are much more subject to the decisions of others than we would feel comfortable thinking about.

The next time you feel so proud because you have a good job just remember that Kansas is a fire at will state.


Clark Coan 1 year ago

There were five people panhandling last night when I was walking downtown. I didn't give them any money, but I gave a buck to the guy playing a mean sax.

I talked with a man today who helps homeless people and in fact has helped four find jobs. He said he has never come across one from Lawrence--they are all from out-of-town. He suspects that 90% of the 125 at the new homeless shelter are from out-of-town. That's why there should be a residency requirement. There's a residency requirement for in-state tuition.


consumer1 1 year ago

I want to take my vote back from Jeremy Farmer. He is an undercover agent for the east lawrence liberal front.


thewayitis 1 year ago

Send them to Oak Park Mall on the JO


Loretta James 1 year ago

they are hardly starving free meals at link and salvation army they have access to a hot meal every day of the week. also the penn house, just food, ballard center all have free bread items such as bread, buns, cookies, donuts and other pastries cupcakes, pies cakes so if they are hungry there is plenty out there to eat if their not to lazy to walk and go get it. one lady said she had never seen any one panhandling on mass she needs to open her eyes. one lady that does it wears dark glasses and may have a cane wanting u to think she is blind but she sees better than i do. the last drop in center had lots of problems why go for more of it.

how long can people stay at the shelter is there a time limit. I know their was a couple guys that had been at SA for 12 and 8 years. I think they should have to work towards a JOB and limit it to 3 or 4 yrs.

after volunteering at penn house a lot of the homeless we seen were not from lawrence but had heard that we take good care of them that is why they came here free meals, free clothes free showers, you name it we give it to them.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Coupons for FREE. Bar bq you know where, free haircuts on Thursday, you know where, coffee and donuts on wednesdays at City Hall..

I wondered JW long before ths topic came up.Loring Enderson too the cream of the crop. The women, the babies, and leftovers got left behind.

To Chestnut, Amyx and the others! Why don't you start focusing on everyone who is trying to stay in their home.

All of the commissioners and their advisor , Ben Dover have accommodated LoringHenderson, so make him responsible.

But then it has long been known that the property on 11th will become a daytime center if you will.

Do any of the present commision and candidates have the guts to ask straight up the owner of the building on 11th what his plans are? Even HE got a free sprinkler system.


IKU57 1 year ago

Apartheid of the less fortunate in Lawrence is sad. Lincoln Nebraska is the top town for well being in the country. Use the T to bus the less fortunate up there. o.0


jhawk1998 1 year ago

the downtown needs to clean up its act. homeless sleeping and loitering on the sidewalks is not appealing. Also not seen as a safe place to take children. Look to cities like San Francisco. They have much more homelessness than Lawrence and you aren't bothered on their market streets.


lawrencechick 1 year ago

I'm glad this article was written now, because I would never vote for someone who would support any kind of downtown drop in center.


organic_locallygrown_hatred 1 year ago

What the article did not address is whether or not there is any legitimate threat to businesses because of the so-called "homeless problem."

I mean, the reason I avoid downtown businesses is because merchandise is often over-priced and service is terrible.

One person quoted in the article mentioned "aggressive panhandlers," but I've never encountered that sort of behavior before in downtown Lawrence. The homeless seem rather benign, sadly, and I nor anyone I know in Lawrence has ever had any problems with them.

Yet, while walking downtown, I've literally been physically threatened for no reason by KU frat types from well-to-do families, people who thrive on the kind of privilege that will always shield them from homelessness.

Why didn't this article go into detail about the motives for getting rid of homelessness in the downtown area? Usually, erasing homelessness is the work of nuns and other well-intentioned people, but there is a sad, almost sociopathic disregard for the homeless as human beings being exhibited by the local business owners. They don't seem to care that people are starving in the streets so long as the ugliness of reality doesn't threaten their bland, Midwestern, suburban, false perception of things. I guess window dressing is really important to some people. Despite their fear, the people quoted in the article give no examples of how the relatively few homeless people in the downtown area have affected their ability to make money, to put their need for profit and their sense of entitlement above the concerns of others.

Homeless or not, what gives these people the right to decide who can go downtown?

In all the years I've lived in this small-minded hick town, I've never seen a single homeless person panhandling in front of any of the over-priced, unfriendly businesses downtown.


irvan moore 1 year ago

I think mr. Henderson is gonna start pitching the need for more public money for expansion in the very near future


Hadley_says 1 year ago

Farmer has more Fritzel donations listed on his campaign finance statements than probably every other candidate combined.

And his primary campaign statement is to "obtain community consensus."

I have not heard how he would address 1) cell phone towers, 2) Varsity House, or 3) Rock Chalk park, and how "community consensus" would occur.

Buyer beware.


LadyJ 1 year ago

Just wait until the library is finished, then we won't need a drop in shelter (sarcasm intended).


Richard Payton 1 year ago

Most Americans' compensation has risen only $59 since 1966, according to a new analysis. The top 10% of earners fared far better. By Aimee Picchi A lot has changed since 1966, when "Star Trek" first aired on TV and Toyota (TM +0.28%) introduced the Corolla. But one thing that hasn't budged much is Americans' inflation-adjusted income, according to a tax analysis by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston. For Americans in the bottom 90%, the "vast majority averaged a mere $59 more in 2011 than in 1966," writes Johnston, who adds that the figure is "jaw-dropping." That means most Americans gained only enough income to buy movie tickets, popcorn and soda for a family of four -- for just one visit to the multiplex per year.

Not all Americans saw their wages stagnate, however. Since 1966, the top 10% of earners saw their incomes jump by $116,071, reaching $254,864 in 2011, Johnston writes. His analysis is based on research by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. (As I wrote in MSN moneyNOW last month, Berkeley economist Saez recently found that only the top 1% saw average real income growth between 2009 and 2011.)

"That disparity in income growth rates comes as the total federal tax burdens on those at the top have been slashed, compared with 1966, especially for the long-term capital gains that account for about a third of total income at the very top," Johnston points out.

Johnston's analysis provides a sobering long-term look at why so many Americans feel they're working harder than ever to keep their heads above water. With rising costs for everything from food to a college education, a $59 income gain over four decades isn't going to help.

To be sure, some other recent research indicates the rich have gotten socked by higher taxes, with federal tax bills approaching 30-year highs.

But in more bad news for America's struggling middle and lower classes, the very rich don't necessarily have priorities that align with have-nots, according a study from Vanderbilt University researchers.

Today's Daddy Warbucks "are much less willing than others to provide broad educational opportunities, including 'spend(ing) whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools they can go to' or 'mak(ing) sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so,'" according to the researchers, who surveyed 83 Chicago-area residents with an average wealth of $14 million.

The elite also oppose government redistribution of wealth, favor lower estate tax rates and lean toward supporting cuts in social programs such as Social Security to reduce the deficit, the study found.

But the uber-wealthy are also more likely to be politically active, with two-thirds of them contributing to campaigns and giving an average of $4,633 to candidates or organizations in the previous year.

Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Just thought I would share this story.


Benjamin Roberts 1 year ago

The panhandling problem was solved last year ( with the installation of Donation Meters:

Lawrence Donation Meters provide ambiance for a panhandler.

Lawrence Donation Meters provide ambiance for a panhandler. by Benjamin Roberts


MarcoPogo 1 year ago

Let's make things interesting: From now on, the downtown homeless drop-in center is It's Brothers. Spread the word.


budtugly 1 year ago

When Fritzel's new rec center is built out west, there should be lots of empty space . Transport them out there on the Emp-T.


Catalano 1 year ago

What about LINK? Would DLI like to see that relocated away from downtown? While I don't think all panhandlers are homeless, I think LINK does feed some homeless people (who may also panhandle), Dr. Riordan.


dee66044 1 year ago

If downtown is where they already are, then why is it the worst place for a drop in center?

“The play will fold if there is no audience,” Riordan said. “If you continue to feed the panhandlers, they will keep coming back.” So better to just watch them starve? I guess once they are all dead the problem is solved!


Bruce Bertsch 1 year ago

I get a kick out of folks like QuiviraTrail...If they are homeless and broke, how do they flock here? Short answer is "they" don't. Sorry to say but the source of Lawrence homelessness is Lawrence.


Keith Richards 1 year ago

Farmer is clueless if he thinks the homeless will congregate at a drop-in shelter. The homeless want to be where the money is, and that is on Mass St.


Clark Coan 1 year ago

Reportedly, the new shelter is full and that is why people are on the streets in downtown. To further compound the problem, the shelter was apparently touted in articles in the KC Star and Topeka Capital-Journal, so now homeless in those cities are flocking here. Build it and they will come! Personally, I think there should be a residency requirement--someone has to have lived in Lawrence for three years before be accepted at the shelter.


MasterShake 1 year ago

I do not want a drop-in center over in the Prairie Park area. I was mildly OK with a family-oriented center moving to my area, but I'm 100% against a drop-in center for the transient population.


Steve Jacob 1 year ago

Farmer is supported by the pro-business PAC and supports a downtown drop in center. Very odd combination.


Thom 1 year ago

Is Amyx the only incumbent? What about Chestnut?


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