City of Lawrence prepares to open winter emergency shelters; volunteer support needed

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As freezing temperatures draw ever closer, the city is preparing to provide emergency shelter for community members experiencing homelessness and houselessness. 

The Lawrence Community Building, 115 W. 11th St., will serve as the city’s primary site for shelter, and the East Lawrence Recreation Center, 1245 E. 15th St., will be a secondary overflow site as needed. 

The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday will consider a resolution to suspend through March 31, 2022 various code provisions “that would otherwise prohibit overnight use” of the centers as temporary emergency shelters, according to a memo in the meeting agenda.

If commissioners give the OK, each building can house up to approximately 75 people per night, or 150 total. The city anticipates a peak demand of about 200 people per night, so staff is still seeking out additional sites. 

The centers will generally be open on nights when the temperature is forecast to be 35° or colder. The sites will open at 8 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. 

August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times The Lawrence Community Building, 115 W. 11th St.
August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times The East Lawrence Recreation Center, 1245 E. 15th St.

The centers will be staffed by the same city staff members who worked with last year’s winter shelters. They’ll provide volunteer coordination and site management. 

“Additionally, we are recruiting volunteers and working with partner agencies to meet needs related to training, support services for guests, security and other program needs,” the memo states.

The winter shelter is expected to cost about $50,000 for supplies, personnel and other costs, to come from the Parks and Recreation Department general fund budget. 

Those interested in volunteering should fill out this form. Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 must be shown at your first volunteer shift. For more information, contact emergencyshelter@lawrenceks.org or call 785-832-7958.

The rec centers’ hours will change to accommodate the shelter. Starting Monday, Nov. 1, the Community Building and East Lawrence Rec Centers’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Beginning Monday, Nov. 13, Saturday hours will expand to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. See other centers’ hours at this link

The Lawrence City Commission will meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2. Find the full meeting agenda at this link. The meeting will stream live on the city’s website and YouTube channel.

Written public comment must be submitted to ccagendas@lawrenceks.org by noon the day of the meeting. You can make public comments during the meeting in person at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., or via Zoom; click here to register. Masks are required to attend in person. Commissioners will attend virtually. 

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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