City-funded Bert Nash outreach team helped 100 clients get into housing in 2023, commissioners hear

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

A homeless outreach team led by nonprofit Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center told the Lawrence City Commission it was able to help 100 clients receive housing in 2023, while also reaching a higher number of new contacts.

During a presentation at the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, Mathew Faulk, the director of housing for Bert Nash, said that the outreach team worked with a total of 587 households over the past year. Of those, he said, Bert Nash helped 89 single households and 11 families to obtain housing. That total of 100 households exceeded the city’s goal of 60.

Last year, Bert Nash received $573,141 from the city to help fund its Homeless Outreach Team, which came from the city’s Special Alcohol Fund.

With those city funds, the nonprofit was able to fund the work of six employees, with a total of $324,599.13 spent on wages. Another $215,439.75 was used on “flex spending,” which refers to direct help for clients such as providing hotel rooms for people who qualified for that service.

Faulk said the total number of people that the Bert Nash outreach team worked with had increased since he started working with the nonprofit in 2016. Back then, the outreach team worked with 326 clients, according to the presentation. In 2022, it worked with 427 clients, highlighting that more people are facing housing insecurity in recent years.

“There are larger numbers of people seeking significant assistance in the last six years,” Faulk said.

City Commissioner Amber Sellers said she appreciated the transparency of Bert Nash’s presentation but felt that it did not “totally flesh out” what outcomes come from different types of contacts, like whether there were improved outcomes from households that were contacted multiple times. She said the presentation “gave her a lot to think about,” especially for seeking better outcomes in 2024.

In May, the commission voted 3-1 to approve funding agreements with Bert Nash for $412,098 and Mirror Inc. for $37,500 for their services as part of the city’s Homeless Response Team. Sellers was the lone no vote; Commissioner Brad Finkeldei abstained because his wife works at Bert Nash. Both allocations come from the city’s Special Alcohol Fund.

In other business, the commission:

• During a work session, heard from Elizabeth Garvin with Clarion Associates about updates to the Land Development Code, which the city is significantly rewriting to allow for a different style of development in the city. The group working on the code update hopes to get a version of the code posted on July 19, which will then lead to a process that will include a public review period before any changes could be approved.

One of the biggest proposed changes involves parking requirements. The current draft of the code would remove required parking minimums and instead put in a parking maximum. Some members of the public expressed concerns about finding parking if that change occurred.

• Forwarded a tax incentive request for a 250-unit affordable housing project at 3100 Michigan St. to the Public Incentives Review Committee. The industrial revenue bond request was submitted by Manhattan-based Bison Development LLC, and the committee is expected to discuss it in August.

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