City of Lawrence announces new online tool for homelessness response

Maureen BradyCity, Homelessness, Parks & Recreation, Planning & Development, Police

The City of Lawrence has launched an online form to connect community members to the City’s homeless programs team. The form is available on the City’s website at lawrenceks.org/homeless-programs.

City staff created the form in response to our goals for community-wide safety and security. Every person living in Lawrence should be able to enjoy life and feel safe where they are, including both housed community members and people who need shelter. If an unsheltered individual is camping and in need of emergency shelter, City staff works with our local service providers to help them move to a sheltering option better suited to their needs.

Community members who are aware of a person who is currently camping and may need shelter can fill out the form to alert the City’s homeless programs team. City staff will go to the area indicated and attempt to contact the individual to discuss available services in the community. While the City of Lawrence is not a direct service provider, the team is connected with partner organizations that can provide emergency shelter and other services.

If staff members find that the individual is camping in a location where camping is not allowed, they give them a minimum of 24 hours’ notice to vacate the area. If the individual has not cleared the area within the designated time frame, a member of the homeless programs team will meet with the individual to give them another opportunity to move. If the individual does not voluntarily vacate the area, they may be given a citation for illegal camping and be removed, along with their belongings. The homeless programs team will hold on to belongings for up to 30 days in the event the owner wants to retrieve them.

Overnight camping is not allowed in City parks. Camping is also not allowed on streets, sidewalks and public rights of way; on private property without the owner’s consent; and in the downtown commercial district. In the event there is no overnight shelter available to an individual who is camping in a prohibited area, they are allowed to camp on public property within the downtown commercial district, such as at Camp New Beginnings. If the police department or homeless programs team responds to individuals camping in the downtown commercial district, they first check with local shelters to see if there are emergency shelter beds available that day. If shelter beds are available but the individual refuses to relocate, then a citation for illegal camping may be issued.

The City of Lawrence, along with Douglas County, has made a commitment to the “Built for Zero” initiative, which means we are working to end chronic homelessness in our community. As part of this commitment, we envision a future wherein camping is no longer necessary because better solutions – like permanent affordable housing, transitional housing and, when necessary, emergency shelter – are available for everyone who needs them; however, until sufficient resources are available in our community, camping remains a reality.

Throughout this work we continue toward our goal, which is an end to chronic homelessness in Lawrence and Douglas County.

Contact: City Communications, citycommunications@lawrenceks.org

About the City of Lawrence  
The City of Lawrence supports an unmistakably vibrant community with innovative, equitable, transparent and responsible local government. Together, we are creating a community where everyone can enjoy life and feel at home.