Editorial: Shelter’s request makes sense

County should consider funding shelter’s plan to use warehouse to house guests on cold nights.

The Lawrence Community Shelter’s request for funding to modify its warehouse to provide additional space for overnight guests on cold nights is reasonable.

Shelter Executive Director Trey Meyer asked Douglas County commissioners for $54,000 to make the modifications, which would add room for 15 to 25 more guests at the shelter. The additional accommodations would be used on nights when the temperature falls below 45 degrees from October through March. The funds would be used to remodel an area within the unimproved warehouse that makes up about one-third of the shelter’s 28,000 square feet. The warehouse is separated from the shelter’s regular dorm. That separation addresses security concerns and gives staff greater control over who is allowed in the building, Meyer said. The shelter prohibits registered sex offenders.

Meyer said some funds also would be used to pay an overnight staff member for cold-weather months.

The shelter opened in 2012 on East 25th Street. It was designed to accommodate 125 people, which was thought to be adequate given that the downtown shelter could only house 75 people. But the new shelter is operating at near capacity and in 2014, shelter officials received authorization to house up to 140 people on cold weather nights. The latest request would take the maximum population to 160 people when the weather is cold.

Meyer said the goal is to avoid having to turn away someone in need. He told commissioners that a few years ago, the shelter turned away someone who later died.

The community shelter works with other providers in Douglas County to provide a range of services to clients to help them gain employment and ultimately, secure housing. But Meyer also pointed out that the facility is the only emergency shelter in Douglas County. The shelter can be an option of last resort some nights, especially when it is cold.

“A person would be permitted to come in for the evening,” Meyer said. “They would have to leave the following morning. While they are here, we would provide a roof over their head, a mat to sleep on, a peanut butter sandwich, some coffee and water — just the basics.”

Utilizing the Community Shelter warehouse as emergency shelter on cold nights is a smart and efficient use of resources. And at $54,000, county commissioners should strongly consider supporting the shelter’s request.