Editorial: Security needed

The Lawrence Community Shelter should do everything possible to enhance safety of its residents.

The Lawrence Community Shelter is right to limit access to the facility by adding electronic security for doors.

Most important was limiting access between the separate areas that shelter families and the shelter’s single residents. One of the most important roles the Community Shelter plays is to provide safe shelter for children of homeless families.

A newly installed electronic lock system is in place for one section of the facility, said Executive Director Trey Meyer. The new system allows doors to be unlocked by key fobs and it syncs with the shelter’s security system. It allows staff greater control over who can go where in the building.

The shelter can accommodate 125 guests in two sections — one for families and one for single guests. Those staying in the single side know they are not supposed to go into the area for families, and staff frequently patrol the area to make sure the rules are enforced. There also are security cameras in place. Still, prior to the new door security system’s installation, incidents did occur.

“The goal is to make sure people can get to where they need to be while being as safe as we possibly can be,” Meyer said.

On Dec. 25, a 56-year-old man was arrested at the shelter after he was accused of sexually touching two people in their 20s and battering a third person. The alleged incident took place on the single side of the shelter.

The new lock system could have an impact on such incidents, by keeping guests from entering restricted areas as well as keeping those who have been banned from entering the building. The key fobs also identify who has entered doors and what time the access occurred.

The Community Shelter, which has faced financial struggles as it tries to keep pace with meeting the needs of the area’s homeless population, still needs to install the security system on six doors at the shelter. The shelter is seeking donations of funding or materials to help finish the effort. Estimates are that it would cost about $6,000 — $1,000 per door — to finish.

The shelter’s staff is to be commended for taking a proactive approach to implementing increased security at the facility. Here’s hoping the community contributions come through to complete the task.