At Kansas Statehouse, Lawrence official shares details about city’s new ‘Homeless Solutions Division’ and plans for additional Pallet shelters
photo by: Kansas Legislature screenshot
The City of Lawrence’s new department dedicated to homeless programs is officially operational, and the city anticipates that a spare set of 45 Pallet cabins will be installed near the Lawrence Community Shelter by this summer.
Those were a couple of new details that one city leader, Misty Bosch-Hastings, shared in a presentation to the Kansas House Committee on Welfare Reform Tuesday afternoon in Topeka. Bosch-Hastings was at the Capitol to share a presentation with the committee about efforts in Lawrence and Douglas County to end chronic homelessness.
Many of the details of that presentation might sound familiar to people in Lawrence; in part, it explained the broad goals of the joint city-county plan known as “A Place for Everyone.” Bosch-Hastings also talked about the significant increase in funding support to increase capacity at the Lawrence Community Shelter, the recent point-in-time homeless count conducted here and across the state in late January, and the completion of The Village, the city’s community of 64-square-foot Pallet cabins for people experiencing homelessness.
But there were at least a few new developments on Tuesday, including Bosch-Hastings’ new title: Director of Homeless Solutions. Bosch-Hastings is heading the city’s “Homeless Solutions Division,” the new city department created with a $2 million allocation called for in the city’s 2024 budget. Bosch-Hastings has been with the City of Lawrence since July 2023, when she came on as the city’s Homeless Programs Coordinator in the Housing Initiatives Division.
“The City of Lawrence recently created its division dedicated to creating solutions to end homelessness called the Homeless Solutions Division,” Bosch-Hastings told the committee. “… The priorities of the Homeless Solutions Division will be creating capacity for emergency shelter and homeless outreach.”
Bosch-Hastings said she’s been in the new role for about a month, and that the city is planning to lead a “robust, multidisciplinary homeless outreach team” that works together with peers, law enforcement agencies and health care providers — including those who specialize in substance use and behavioral health. She said the division will also collaborate with residents, community leaders, service providers and people with personal experience with homelessness to establish new policies and services.
As for that group of additional Pallet shelters, the Journal-World has previously reported that the city still hasn’t installed 25 of the 75 cabins it purchased about a year ago and also has another 20 cabins available thanks to a donation from a Kansas City nonprofit. Bosch-Hastings told lawmakers that those shelters will serve individuals who wouldn’t be eligible for The Village, which is intended to be a high-barrier option serving vulnerable groups like veterans, the elderly, women without children emerging from domestic violence situations and individuals with disabilities who require specialized support and care.
Instead, Bosch-Hastings said the Pallet cabins next to LCS will be a low-barrier option, serving people with severe and persistent mental illness and others experiencing chronic homelessness due to previous violent or sexual offenses. She added later that the city plans to consider awarding more funding geared toward providing case management services and other supports when LCS is ready to move forward with installing those shelters.