Letter to the editor: Shelter emergency

To the editor:

This is how crisis happens in a broken system.

A lack of funding in August caused almost half of the people at the Lawrence Community Shelter to be forced to leave — with three weeks’ notice. Until this winter, LCS had been the overflow weather shelter.

Because of the lack of funding for staffing, people were not allowed in LWS this winter. So we opened an emergency shelter. First United Methodist Church jumped in and opened within 48 hours of our first discussion. We were open every night for six weeks that temperatures were below 32 degrees. The ordinance limiting the number of people in the shelter to 15 caused us to close, as we will not turn away the 16th, 17th or 30th person in need.

Prior to this ordinance, fear and NIMBY-ism had kept churches from doing what they were meant to do: help people. No one could stay overnight. Know that Family Promise opened in November 2008, months before the ordinance was passed in 2009. Now that ordinance is causing suffering and may lead to fatalities. If my neighborhood lost power, I’d bet we’d be granted a place to stay warm. Not so for people who don’t have a home.

There are stories of tragedy and hope I’m not granted space here to tell. Succinctly, for people who are living outside tonight, this emergency needs to be addressed now. Our city and county leaders need to work together to solve this emergency now. And this ongoing issue needs a budget line item right now.

Steve Ozark,

Lawrence

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