Pallet Shelter structures arrive in Lawrence, but who will operate the temporary shelter site remains unclear
photo by: Sylas May
Story updated at 4:29 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31:
The City of Lawrence earlier this week received the 50 prefabricated structures that will make up the future Pallet Shelter Village on North Michigan Street, and work continues to prepare for them to be installed.
But it’s still not clear when the city may have any information to share about which social service agency will be operating the site at 256 N. Michigan St., which will feature 64-square-foot cabins for people experiencing homelessness. That piece of information was not among the details that Misty Bosch-Hastings, the city’s newly hired Homeless Programs Coordinator, shared with the Journal-World via email Thursday afternoon.
What Bosch-Hastings did share was that the city currently has all 50 Pallet shelters stored securely in Lawrence while fencing and lighting are installed. Those elements are part of the finalized site design plan for the Pallet Shelter Village that the city shared at the beginning of August.
photo by: City of Lawrence
“We are focused on building capacity to effectively support 50 residents at the Pallet Shelter Village, while continuing to work with consultants and community partners to keep the project moving forward,” Bosch-Hastings said.
Bosch-Hastings added that the city is also working on ensuring there are alternative “safe, supported sheltering options” for anyone who doesn’t become a resident at the Pallet Shelter Village.
One recent study determined that in the Lawrence area, the number of people who could benefit from living in a supportive housing unit is more than three times the number of Pallet units that would be available. That study was a needs assessment examining homelessness in the area that was completed more than a year ago by the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research. It found that according to community providers, more than 150 individuals would benefit from supportive housing to help them break the cycle of chronic homelessness.
“We’re focused on building capacity to serve all of our unsheltered neighbors,” Bosch-Hastings said. “That capacity-building is critical to effectively creating a place for everyone.”
City of Lawrence spokesperson Cori Wallace also told the Journal-World Thursday afternoon that the city will be prepared to share some updated milestones for the Pallet Shelter site in the next week or so, but didn’t go into any further detail. Wallace added that the city wants to be intentional about sharing updates about the project, first with neighbors in the area and then with the general public, as concrete details are confirmed.
The Pallet Shelter Village project was pushed back by about six months in early June, in part because some parts of the project, like demolition and finalizing a site design plan, had encountered delays. Those two parts of the plan have since been completed, but the lack of an outside agency to operate the site is still a problem. The city didn’t receive any bids from social service agencies interested in operating the temporary shelter site.
As the Journal-World reported, the spending for the shelter buildings and property was approved by city leaders in March. The city approved $1.11 million to purchase the shelter structures from the company Pallet and $725,000 to purchase the land on North Michigan Street.
The cost of the project could rise even higher at next week’s Lawrence City Commission meeting. City leaders will be considering whether to approve more than $600,000 in contracts to install electrical, water and sewer services on the site. Both of those contracts — a $390,047 agreement with Randall Electric and a $214,678 agreement with RD Johnson Excavating Co. — are on the City Commission’s list of bid and purchase items on the consent agenda, which includes items that can be approved by one vote from commissioners without any discussion.