Lawrence City Commission to consider allocating $446,000 in federal coronavirus relief to homeless shelter

photo by: Jackson Barton

The Lawrence Community Shelter is pictured Friday Aug. 9, 2019.

Story updated at 5:40 p.m. Monday

City leaders will soon consider providing close to $450,000 of federal coronavirus relief funds to the local homeless shelter, enabling the construction of an isolation ward and other building improvements to help the shelter respond to the pandemic.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider providing a $446,184 grant — allocated to the city under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — entirely to the Lawrence Community Shelter, 3655 E. 25th St. The grant will help pay for various capital improvements at the shelter, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

Community Development Manager Danelle Walters said the improvements would help the shelter respond to the pandemic and reduce risks. She said the grant is not meant to help the shelter increase its capacity, which the shelter reduced last year because of budget shortfalls. Walters said the recommendation to provide the grant to the shelter followed previous direction the commission provided city staff.

Specifically, the recommended plan would provide funding for four building improvements at the shelter, according to the memo. That includes $94,705 to construct an isolation and recovery area; $148,400 to reconstruct the locker-room-style bathrooms; $10,500 to repair the HVAC system and improve air circulation; and $120,950 to install drop ceilings to stop disease from traveling above room dividers across segregated areas of the facility.

The $446,000 is the first federal coronavirus relief funding that the city has received. The city announced in April that it would receive the grant, and city leaders subsequently agreed that those dollars should go to the most vulnerable residents in the community, including the homeless and those living in shelters.

City Manager Craig Owens previously told the commission that the city expects additional federal funds for coronavirus relief to be provided. Walters said that the city is eligible for and applied for additional funds, but it is not yet known how much it will receive.

The CARES Act allocated $5 billion of additional funding to cities to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. To quickly provide the relief to communities, the federal government distributed the first grants through the existing Community Development Block Grant program.

The coronavirus relief funds can be used in various ways, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the CDBG program, provides several examples on its website. Those include constructing medical facilities for testing and treatment, supporting businesses manufacturing medical supplies, constructing a group living facility to centralize patients undergoing treatment, and to carry out job training of health care workers and technicians, among others.

As part of its Tuesday meeting, the commission will consider authorizing an amendment to the 2019 spending plan for the CDBG program — which includes spending that occurs this year — that outlines how the $446,000 grant will be used. The commission will also hold a public hearing for the 2020 CDBG spending plan, which includes an additional $52,000 for the shelter, among various allocations for 12 other community programs. The amendment to the 2019 plan and the recommended 2020 plan are available as part of the meeting agenda on the city’s website,

• In other business, the commission will consider approving the institutional development plan for the expansion of the Douglas County Jail, 3601 E. 25th St. The plan, which calls for an approximately 13,000 square-foot addition and 38 new off-street parking spaces, must be in compliance with all applicable code and permit regulations. The Planning Commission has reviewed the plan and voted unanimously at its meeting on April 22 to recommended the plan for approval. In the face of opposition from some residents, the Douglas County Commission authorized the nearly $30 million expansion of the jail in January.

The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, with limited staff members in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually, if they are able to do so, using temporary meeting procedures put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Directions for submitting public comment and correspondence are included in the meeting agenda that is available on the city’s website.


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