Your Turn: Step up support for homeless

I read with dismay that the Lawrence Community Homeless Shelter is reducing the number of clients it can serve from 125 to 60. Hundreds of people who gave generously to help the Shelter acquire and furnish the current facility will be equally disappointed.

When the move was made, the homeless board emphasized to both the county and city that it would be virtually impossible to raise yearly donations in the amounts needed to serve the bigger numbers, especially when a six-figure out-of-town contributor would not be doing so for much longer.

Lawrence is a unique place, where every year there are wonderful causes that are having fund drives or campaigns and the giving residents of Douglas County choose different places to make their sacrificial donations. We have to be honest in also understanding that many people who give to other causes do not think of the homeless shelter as one they believe in or will support. Thus, the lack of money also makes it nearly impossible to be able to offer a salary that will attain and retain a top-drawer CEO for the shelter.

The city and county have been generous in helping the shelter, but it is time for them to come to grips with the realization that to have a homeless shelter that is serving 125 clients in a manner that will help them get out of homelessness means that they have to step up their support. The city gave the Humane Society a huge donation and a huge loan, and I have no problem with that. I do, however, think that the clients that walk into the homeless shelter deserve as much financial support.

People do not realize that in a given year, the shelter will help former doctors, engineers, teachers, CEOs and many, many veterans. There is no socio-economic “category” there — they are there because of divorce, substance abuse, spousal death, loss of job, loss of home, etc. They are certainly (for hopefully a short time there) human beings who need a hand and a shoulder and, yes, a bed. For a community such as ours that has shown over and over again how generous we can be, I believe that most of our citizenry would hope that we could continue to work with 125 clients every single day of the week instead of 60.

— John Tacha Sr. is a past president of the Lawrence School Board, a past vice president of the Lawrence chamber of commerce, past president of Cottonwood Inc. and past president of the Lawrence Community Shelter.


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