In response to concerns expressed by those who have been living at the temporary support site that was established by the City over the summer, the City is committing to leaving the site in operation through March 12, 2023. This means individuals staying at the temporary support site will be able to choose to shelter at the Winter Emergency Shelter (WES) on cold nights as shelter space allows. The Winter Emergency Shelter will also remain open through March 12, 2023.
We understand that people have individual needs and we will work to accommodate the variety of needs of those experiencing homelessness. This has and will continue to drive our decisions. With our recent effort to get people to warmer and safer environments, we recognize that we lost sight of this guiding principle.
We also erred in not communicating significant changes to our programs and approach in advance. We apologize for the concerns this created and we appreciate that people communicated their concerns to us. Our team is working hard and has the best intentions to help the most vulnerable members of our community. This is complex and difficult work that requires ongoing evaluation and adjustments as we go. Though we understand that this mistake damaged trust, we hope our consistent progress ― driven by our values ― will be evident over time and earn back the trust of those we are serving and the community members who are critical to our success.
The Housing Initiatives Division (HID), along with Douglas County and all of our community partners, is committed to ending chronic homelessness and ensuring that everyone has a safe and affordable home. Our HID team continues working on an overall plan to get everyone housed over the next several years, in line with the City’s strategic plan. With this, along with current needs, the Housing Initiatives Division is working on plans to offer a longer-term support site or sites for the unsheltered population after March 12, 2023, when both the Winter Emergency Shelter and temporary support site are scheduled to cease operations.
The Winter Emergency Shelter (WES) provides 75 overnight shelter spaces in our community. If the Winter Emergency Shelter reaches capacity, the City has designated the East Lawrence Recreation Center as an overflow overnight shelter with an additional 40 beds available, should there be enough volunteer support to assist staffing the second location. Volunteers are needed nightly to assist with WES operations. To volunteer to help staff the Winter Emergency Shelter, sign up here.
The Homeless Programs Team will continue to provide outreach at every encampment throughout Lawrence, encouraging individuals to use the Winter Emergency Shelter as an emergency shelter space.
Recognizing dropping temperatures and the work ahead, staff will prioritize efforts to support the Winter Emergency Shelter and the next steps on the longer-term support site or sites. We are also evaluating budget resources to ensure that we can adequately support these ambitious new programs. We know our community is committed to affordable housing. Ongoing community support is necessary and appreciated as we continue this challenging work.
Contact: Porter Arneill, Director of Communications and Creative Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org