City, county plan to tackle homelessness likely to require $100 million-plus investment over five years

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

A worker can be seen retrieving supplies from a vehicle near the entrance to the city-sanctioned homeless campsite on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

Douglas County’s plan to “virtually eliminate” homelessness by 2028 would require an investment of more than $100 million over five years, and much of that money would go to costs associated with building and operating permanent affordable housing units.

After 32 months of research and planning, the full scope of the community plan to end homelessness — dubbed “A Place for Everyone” — is scheduled to be reviewed by city and county leaders during a joint session at City Hall on Wednesday.

The plan outlines a variety of strategies to ensure that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Douglas County never exceeds the community’s capacity to move them into permanent supportive housing, which is defined as housing that comes with rental assistance and other “wraparound” services that help residents manage jobs, finances and other parts of their lives.

Now, commissioners will get a more complete look at the costs to fund the plan.

Assistant County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur previously told county commissioners that the county faces many costs associated with rising homelessness, including costs for the county’s new behavioral health crisis center and the funding the county provides to Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

A version of the “A Place for Everyone” report presented to county commissioners in June estimated that building and operating the necessary supportive housing in Douglas County could involve $35.2 million in one-time costs, as well as an additional $4.8 million per year to keep the supportive housing services going.

Jolicoeur told the Journal-World at the time that “those numbers are what we need for our chronically homeless population” and “people on the fringe of homelessness.”

The latest version of the report is now highlighting additional costs that are likely. The report lists five-year cost estimates for the following programs:

• Affordable housing: $59.2 million

• Supportive housing: $28.4 million

• Emergency shelter: $20.9 million

• Equity and inclusion: $45,025

• Various system costs: $25,000

Discussions on how to fund the $100 million-plus investment are likely to occur in the future. Not all of the money needed for the plan will be new money. For example, the city already has a sales tax devoted to affordable housing, and both the city and the county provide money for emergency shelter services, for instance.

The latest version of the report also includes a needs assessment that was completed in 2022, identifying at least 150 individuals in Lawrence experiencing chronic homelessness. The Corporation for Supportive Housing also estimated in 2022 that 381 supportive housing units were needed in the community, and of those, at least 115 families experiencing homelessness were in need of permanent supportive housing units. But as the Journal-World reported in October, the city’s homeless population jumped by 51% over a one-year period, easily the largest increase in the state.

According to materials made available for Wednesday’s meeting, some of the five-year plan’s key objectives include:

• Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing units by 1,500

• Increasing the supply of affordable homeownership units by 200

• Increasing the supply of affordable units for families with minor children by 500

• Establishing policy and system changes that realign power imbalances that prevent equitable access to, and development of, affordable housing

• Establishing a communitywide case management program

• Establishing funding resources

• Designing a curriculum to build community buy-in and trust for supportive housing

• Establishing a street outreach team to serve unsheltered individuals

• Providing women and children immediate access to low-barrier emergency services

• Establishing a homeless community outreach and day center facility

The joint meeting is slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.