Your Turn: Shelter points to success

Lawrence Journal-World opinion section

There have been several articles in the Lawrence Journal-World in the last few weeks that have cast the Lawrence Community Shelter in a negative light. As the current president of the board at the shelter, I will be the first to acknowledge that there are issues that, with only the context of the J-W’s reporting, would seem quite serious on the surface.

For example, it is correct that the kitchen at the shelter was shut down overnight while it came into compliance this past weekend, but there are many restaurants in Lawrence currently operating out of compliance. Like many of these reputable restaurants, we want to be off the list. We are using this experience as a way to partner with local restaurant leaders to improve practices and learn from the best. We sincerely thank Maceli’s restaurant for their assistance and guidance.

Since the Lawrence Community Shelter moved to its new location, it has been able to house more guests, and serve them meals. Concurrently, we are providing more programming, helping exponentially more people into jobs, and moving people out of homelessness. Our ultimate goal is for all of our clients to become taxpaying citizens of Douglas County, and we are succeeding with an average of 22 newly housed and employed guests each month.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this work comes with a cost. The city and county have been generous in their financial commitments, but the overwhelming majority of the money that keeps the shelter going 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, comes from private donations. The honest truth is that many of the small problems cited in previous articles would be a non-issue if there was a larger commitment from the county and city that could be used to hire additional, dedicated employees for case management, for night supervisors, for kitchen help — in short, to deal with the issues highlighted in the previous articles.

I hope future media coverage deals with some of the incredible success stories that are happening on a daily basis at the shelter. For our part, we will share data and highlight programming successes. We also invite the community to visit the facility to get a first-hand look at an entity that is creating miracles every day on a very limited budget.

The Lawrence Community Shelter provides a core service to our community, and the work being done there should make the entire community proud.

— John Tacha Jr. is president of the Lawrence Community Shelter board of directors.