Lawrence City Commission to consider permit for homeless drop-in center in downtown Lawrence
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
City leaders will soon consider a plan to convert a downtown building into a drop-in center for the homeless.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider a special use permit for the homeless center, which would be located at 944 Kentucky St. Neighbors filed a protest petition, so a supermajority of commissioners, or four out of five, will be required to approve the permit.
As the Journal-World previously reported, the center would be operational during the day in the former home of the Lawrence Community Shelter. The former director of the shelter, Loring Henderson, filed the plans on behalf of the nonprofit Coalition for Homeless Concerns. The permit application calls for the center to be open every day from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
In addition to the protest petitions, some neighbors submitted correspondence to the city about their concerns. Neighbors expressed concerns that the homeless center will increase the crime rates and other issues in the area, including trespassing, damage to property and public drunkenness. The Oread Residents Association has stated it is supportive of the center, but asks that there be a plan to provide transportation to the Lawrence Community Shelter once the center closes and that there be an outdoor gathering space apart from the building’s small front porch.
The protest area consists of any property within 200 feet of the proposed homeless center, according to a memo to the commission. There are 22 parcels within 200 feet of the site, and eight properties representing about 25 percent of the protest area filed petitions with the city. According to city code, a valid protest petition for a special use permit must represent at least 20 percent of the property in the protest area.
Henderson has said he thinks the center fulfills an unmet need for homeless people. The center will provide access to showers, restrooms and laundry facilities. There will also be phones, coffee, donated snacks, TV, and a voluntary Christian ministry. The center will be dependent on volunteer staff, and volunteers will refer people to social service resources as opposed to duplicating services, according to a city staff memo to the commission.
In January, the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission voted, 5-4, to recommend the approval of a special use permit for the center. All of the commissioners said they approved of the project, but the vote was split because they disagreed on whether the permit should be re-evaluated after three or two years, with the latter time frame winning out.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.