Lawrence Community Shelter board still working to finalize new funding request for City of Lawrence, aiming to have it ready for Dec. 19 commission meeting

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The Lawrence Community Shelter Board of Directors hosted its Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, meeting from the community building at The Village, 256 N. Michigan St.

Though the Lawrence Community Shelter Board of Directors hasn’t yet approved a new funding request to submit to the City of Lawrence, it could do so in the next week.

Board members discussed that funding request during a special meeting Thursday morning at The Village, 256 N. Michigan St., the site of the city’s community of Pallet cabins for people experiencing homelessness. As the Journal-World has reported, the city is expecting that LCS will serve as the operator at The Village and is waiting to see a proposal from the shelter’s board indicating the level of funding support needed to accomplish that.

What board members did approve Thursday morning was the process from here, in which board treasurer Rebekah Gaston works with Misty Bosch-Hastings, the city’s homeless programs coordinator, and interim LCS director Melanie Valdez to finalize the funding request by next Tuesday. That deadline would give city staff enough time to review the proposal and include it as an action item on the agenda for the Lawrence City Commission’s next meeting, which would be Tuesday, Dec. 19.

“I think the key is this is fluid, and we’ve got to keep showing that we’re making progress,” board president Charlie Bryan said Thursday. “If we do that, I feel like we’re being as responsive as we can to the community’s needs.”

Board members did get a look at some early budget figures prepared by Valdez and Bosch-Hastings, though, and learned that the funding request is also meant to accommodate not just the cost of running The Village but also the other additional services the shelter’s gearing up to provide.

Notably, the figures presented Thursday account for 54 positions in total between The Village and the existing LCS facility at 3655 E. 25th St. Bosch-Hastings said the budget for those positions, accounting for fringe benefits, is almost $2.7 million. That’s already more than $1 million higher than the roughly $1.6 million per year that Valdez previously told the Journal-World the shelter has needed to keep running prior to being asked to expand its capacity and take on an operational role at The Village.

Valdez told board members that simply approving another funding request and potentially getting more money from the City of Lawrence won’t be a cure-all, however. She said a lot of the shelter’s current policies don’t exactly fit the model reflected in the funding request, and making changes on that front isn’t something that happens overnight.

“My other concern, question, the thing that I’m thinking about is the actual implementation of this once there is an agreement in place, because this is a significant change in our operations and we are just kind of getting going for you guys as a board,” Valdez said. “We talked about policy development and procedures, and this is going to take a lot of work. It’s a significant change in our operations, and I want to make sure we are set up to be successful implementing those things, and the future (executive director) is set up to be successful, and the staff has a very clear directive on what their responsibilities are going into that.”

The shelter board is still working on hiring a new permanent director after 121 candidates applied for the role. The board committee heading the hiring process previously narrowed that field to 10 candidates, and Bryan told the group Thursday that one of them has since dropped out of consideration. The board still plans to interview that initial group of candidates via Zoom next Monday and Tuesday, then narrow the field further to four candidates. The board is aiming for final interviews with the top two candidates to take place during the Thursday, Dec. 21, board meeting.


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