Artists Helping the Homeless’ respite house has served dozens of men in first 2 years

photo by: Meeting screenshot/CJCC

Data provided by Artists Helping the Homeless' Kar Woo shows most of the 75 men the organization's respite house has served have either been reuinted with friends or family or moved onto a "next step," like an Oxford house. Kar Woo shared the information with the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.

In its first two years in Lawrence, a respite house operated by Artists Helping the Homeless has served dozens of men experiencing homelessness. The organization has also opened a second location to provide additional support for individuals getting back on their feet.

Since opening in 2019, the Kairos House, a respite house at 1209 Randall Road operated by Artists Helping the Homeless, has served 75 homeless men, plus eight more who are currently living there, AHH President Kar Woo said during a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting on Tuesday.

The respite house provides housing as well as support for issues related to mental illness or substance abuse, the Journal-World has reported. Many of those who are referred to the house had been recently released from the Douglas County Jail.

Most of the men who have been discharged from the house either reunited with friends or family or graduated to a “next step” housing facility, such as an Oxford house, Woo said. An Oxford house is another form of transitional housing, but it offers more independent living than a respite house.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

The Kairos House, 1209 Randall Road, offers respite housing to Lawrence men suffering from homelessness, addiction and mental illness. The home is operated by Artists Helping the Homeless.

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Meraki House, operated by Artists Helping the Homeless, serves as a transitional home for individuals who experienced homelessness and are working to get back on their feet.

Woo said AHH has recently opened a second house in Lawrence, known as Meraki, to serve as a direct “next step” for those who graduate from Kairos House into a more independent living situation. Woo said the second house was necessary in Lawrence because some residents of the Kairos House had done well enough to move to less intensive housing but didn’t have anywhere to go.

“We opened the second house in Lawrence to help relieve that feeling of being stuck because they can’t move on,” Woo said. “Now they can move to the second phase with more independent living.”

The Meraki House, which is located in the Deerfield neighborhood, began taking in residents in July and August. Along with the housing support, it provides peer-to-peer programming for the residents.

The organization has also become a strong partner with the Douglas County Jail, as it is one of the main referrals for individuals leaving the jail. Carrie Neis, the jail’s director of reentry programs, said that when the jail knew an individual was about to be released and would be homeless, the jail would work with AHH to support that individual.

Neis guessed roughly 60 people have been served in that fashion this year.

“Kar Woo has been a great partner to reentry, and we are very thankful for him,” Neis said. “He has done many great things for the people who are leaving our jail.”

Despite the successes of the AHH houses, local officials said they knew more needed to be done to address homelessness.

Bob Tryanski, Douglas County’s director of behavioral health projects, said during the meeting that AHH’s work has shown the county that more “next step” pieces needed to be established to support individuals leaving AHH’s care. He said some options could be providing more transitional housing like the Meraki House.

Meanwhile, he said the county was sponsoring a housing needs assessment to research what other options could be available to address the issue. He also noted that the county had added transitional housing recently as part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County.

“There’s a lot of learning to be done in the next couple of months and years ahead,” Tryanski said.

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