Editorial: Good strategy for shelter

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

The City of Lawrence and the Douglas County Commission are right to support and fund the development of a strategic plan for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

The shelter faces a $246,000 funding gap for 2019, is seeking its fifth executive director in four years and recently suffered a bedbug infestation.

Last week, city commissioners voted to provide the shelter all of its 2019 funding now –$200,000 — instead of as allocations in April and October. Commissioners also agreed that the city would pay up to $15,150 for a consulting firm, SS&C Solutions, to assess the shelter’s operations and finances, develop a strategic plan and provide search services for the shelter’s new executive director. County commissioners also voted last week to pay SS&C Solutions up to $15,150 for the shelter work.

The contract between the city, the county and SS&C estimates the work will be complete by May 15.

City Manager Tom Markus said the idea behind fronting the homeless shelter all of its funding now is to relieve immediate budgetary pressures while buying time to evaluate shelter operations and make an informed decision on shelter funding.

“I think it sends a very strong message to the staff over there that the city and the county are obviously taking a very hard look at this and providing the funding so that (the shelter) can continue for its immediate future while we do additional due diligence as to how this thing should operate and what our participation levels should be,” Markus said. “There’s no easy answer here.”

Markus is right: There are no easy answers to the struggles of the community shelter. But as we have said before, the shelter provides an essential and noble service for the community, though it is easy to overlook the homeless population the shelter serves. The homeless have little in the way of resources and advocacy.

Ignoring the challenges the shelter faces won’t make homelessness go away. To the contrary, it will simply exacerbate the problems. The city and county are right to enlist a consultant’s help in developing an operational plan for the shelter. The funds are a small price to pay to address a growing community need.


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