City of Lawrence begins clearing campsite in North Lawrence

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Jenn Adams, who has helped run the city campsite for those experiencing homelessness in North Lawrence, is pictured with her dog Babygirl at the site on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

The City of Lawrence has begun issuing notices to people to clear their campsites in preparation for closing a city-managed campsite in North Lawrence for those experiencing homelessness.

Originally, the city estimated that the camp, which is located near North Second Street on city-owned property between the Johnny’s Tavern back parking lot and the levee trail, would be in place until March 12, at which time the city anticipates opening a longer-term campsite in another, yet-to-be-determined location. However, the city also recently said it would be following its camping ordinance that allows camping in the downtown district only when there are no available shelter beds. The city opened the Winter Emergency Shelter in the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St., on Dec. 1, and as of Friday city officials said the largest number of people who have stayed there has been 38. The capacity at the emergency shelter is 75, with the potential for 12 overflow beds at the Lawrence Community Shelter in eastern Lawrence.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

A noticed posted at the city-run campsite that was shared with the Journal-World on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

Camp resident Jennifer Adams said she first heard about the notices a couple days ago, and that the city is issuing 10 notices per week with the goal of having everybody moved out by Jan. 15. On Dec. 1, the city said there were 62 people living at the site. A week later, Dec. 8, a city spokesman said there were 40.

“We had to put out some of the notices. There’s 10 of them, and now we’re just waiting to see what the next thing is,” she said.

She called the situation heartbreaking, adding that “I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears in this place.”

Adams, who had helped run the campsite, said she had no idea what she would do next. She said she couldn’t go the shelters because she has a dog, Babygirl, and a cat, Cheech, that she doesn’t want to be separated from. She said she’s been told by social support services that there is a housing voucher available for her, but she needs to find someone who will accept it.

“I’m trying to go inside,” she said, “if I can find a landlord that would rent to me.”

The emergency shelter allows people to bring animals with them, but they must be put in a crate in the building’s basement, which is heated. Apart from not wanting to crate her pets or be separated from them, Adams said she didn’t feel safe with the open setup of the winter shelter. She said her personal safety was also a major concern at other campsites in town.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

The city-run campsite for people experiencing homelessness, pictured Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, is in the process of shutting down.

Adams has been living at the site in North Lawrence for about a year now with a group of people she said she trusts. She said she moved to that area after she was assaulted when camping near Sandra Shaw Park, and she does not feel comfortable going to other more out-of-the way campsites, such as the one near Burcham Park or the one behind the Amtrak station in East Lawrence.

“Neither one of those places is safe at all, and I have no desire to go out there,” she said.

As someone who helps keep order at the site, Adams said she and her group would be the last to go once the camp closes on Jan. 15. She said that upcoming prospect was really affecting her.

“It’s setting my depression off,” Adams said. “I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I can do to help. I’m really panicky, because I don’t have any clue where we can go. ”

The Journal-World has reached out to the city with questions about plans to close the site, and will update this report.


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