Director of city’s homeless shelter leaving to take new job in Kansas City

The Lawrence Community Shelter once again is looking for a new leader after its executive has accepted a position with a Kansas City nonprofit that serves the homeless community.

Brian Blevins, executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter since December, confirmed he will begin a new position in late July with Hope Faith Ministries in Kansas City, Mo. Blevins will serve as the executive director for the organization, which operates a faith-based day center that provides medical services, housing assistance, employment training and a host of other services to the homeless. Blevins’ last day as director of the Lawrence Community Shelter will be July 20.

“It was just a really great opportunity,” Blevins said. “It is a faith-based organization, and that fits in well with who I am.”

The decision, though, leaves the shelter searching for its third director since May 2014, when longtime director Loring Henderson retired.

A leader with the shelter’s board of directors said the board will meet on Monday to map out a process for hiring a new director.

“We’re confident that we’ll find someone great,” said John R. Tacha, vice president of the board of directors. “Someone will want this job because of how much good you can do in this position.”

Tacha said the board was understanding of Blevins’ decision.

“It was a completely amicable split,” Tacha said. “It really was a just a dream position for him.”

Blevins said he knows the timing of the change isn’t ideal for the shelter. As previously reported, the shelter is facing an approximately $150,000 shortfall in its $1 million operating budget for 2015. Blevins confirmed he has sent a funding request to both the city and the county, asking the two governments to provide a total of $150,000 to $200,000 for the remainder of 2015.

Blevins said he’s been told the City Commission will consider that funding request in early July. Blevins said the funding situation, however, had no bearing on his decision to take the new job. He said the shelter is not facing a financial crisis that threatens its future.

“We will have to make changes to our services, though, if we don’t get the funding,” Blevins said. “That would be horrible for many of our guests.”

Operating expenses at the shelter have increased by about $300,000 since the shelter moved from a small downtown facility in 2012 that provided 75 beds to a new facility on the eastern edge of Lawrence that provides housing for 125 guests.

The shelter receives a majority of its approximately $1 million operating budget from grants and private donations, but Blevins said a host of capital campaigns in the community — including one for the shelter to purchase and renovate its facility — has created some “donor fatigue” in the community.

“But it has been a lot easier for us to get accountability from our guests by being in this facility,” said Blevins, who said the extra space has allowed for more job training opportunities and has allowed for social service agencies to set up office inside the shelter rather than relying on shelter guests to show up at off-site appointments. “It has created a much better environment for recovery.”