LAWRENCE — Homeless advocates in Lawrence say they did what they could for people forced to leave city’s only overnight homeless shelter but they are concerned that some of them had nowhere to go.
About 25 people left the Lawrence Community Shelter on Friday after shelter officials said financial difficulties forced them to drop the number of people it could serve. The shelter announced in early August that it would reduce its capacity from 125 to 65 people.
It stopped accepting new guests Sunday and found alternate arrangements for others, leaving 25 people with no housing plans when the deadline arrived.
David Miller was one of those who had to leave with no idea where he would go. He’s been temporarily sleeping in a nonresidential building with the owner’s permission but he said the shelter’s closing was a blow.
“The bottom fell out and I’ve just been really screwed up,” Miller said. “Like, you know, from that point on, I started having health problems and dental issues.”
The shelter’s assistant director, Kenny Yates, said many guests left with donated camping supplies, toiletries and bags of snacks that were donated after the shelter’s plans were announced.
“We had put together some resource book bags that were full of things like rain jackets, tarps and little things like instant coffee, sunscreen, bug spray, mini first aid kits and various things like that,” Yates said. “Given some of the circumstances we knew people would be facing, those are the things that would help them the most.”
Yates said based on conversations he heard, he expected some of those who left will be camping.
There are no other overnight homeless shelters in Lawrence but homeless people can use services during the day at a drop-in center downtown, which provides showers, laundry facilities, water, coffee and snacks. The Drop-in And Respite Center opened in June, said center director Loring Henderson.
Henderson said many of the people forced to leave the shelter don’t have a place to stay.
“They don’t know what they’re doing,” Henderson said. “What I’m getting more than anything is, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’ There is not a good answer to that.”
The shelter reduced its capacity because of a funding shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars and changes to what the shelter considers safe staffing levels.
The city and Douglas County significantly increased their funding levels for the shelter for 2019 and 2020 but not by as much as the shelter requested. City commissioners indicated they might review the city’s sales tax receipts early next year to see if it would allow the city to provide the shelter with additional money.
Shelter board president Thea Perry previously told the Journal-World the shelter is raising money with the hope of being able to increase its capacity before winter. Perry said the shelter would need to raise about $150,000 to pay for the staff, food and other expenses needed to increase the capacity by just 30 people.