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City announces tentative location for Pallet Shelter Village: North Michigan Street

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Post last updated at 1:55 p.m. Wednesday, March 15:

The City of Lawrence on Wednesday announced the location for its planned Pallet Shelter Village site: 256 North Michigan St., pending Lawrence City Commission approval.

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“The City is committed to working with the surrounding neighborhood to make the Pallet Shelter village a successful addition,” according to a news release.

In December, the Lawrence City Commission approved using $4.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act money — federal COVID-19 relief funds — to purchase the modular homes for people experiencing homelessness from Pallet, a “Public Benefit Corporation.”

The modular Pallet homes, which will include a heating and cooling source but no bathrooms, will be part of a “village setting” that includes restrooms, laundry, shower and community gathering facilities and support service offices. The individual units include locking doors and windows, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for safety. 

The site will also include office space for providers of supportive services, according to the city’s news release.

City staff members have said previously that the village would open sometime in June.

“The City’s immediate goal is to develop an adequate amount of emergency shelter facilities for Lawrence community members in need on any given night,” according to the release.

Chansi Long/Lawrence Times The city announced plans to purchase land at 256 N. Michigan St. for a Pallet Shelter Village. Land behind the building, which formerly housed Veritas Christian School, is pictured Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

Multiple sources confirmed earlier this month that the city was interested in the area on North Michigan Street for shelter projects. Jenn Wolsey, former homeless programs coordinator for the city, said she and other city officials looked at the building that formerly housed Veritas Christian School as a possible city acquisition and resource for homelessness back in October 2022. 

A previous deal for the city to purchase land for the village near 18th Street and Haskell Avenue did not come to fruition.

“We are committed to making Lawrence a community where all people can feel at home, can feel safe and can enjoy life,” Assistant City Manager Brandon McGuire said in the release. “This includes our community members experiencing homelessness, and the City is working hard to provide needed emergency shelter resources. While we’re excited by the interim need that Pallet can fill, our work is far from done.” 

The purchase of Pallet cabins will be on the agenda for Lawrence City Commission approval at the meeting on Tuesday, March 21, according to the release. The commission will also be asked to approve the purchase of the land.

Chansi Long/Lawrence Times

“We believe housing is a basic human right that all people are entitled to have,” Pallet Founder and CEO Amy King said in the release. “As some communities look to innovative plans to solve the current housing crisis, we need to work together to find comprehensive solutions to end unsheltered homelessness.” 

The city envisions Pallet being in use for three to five years “while other more permanent housing solutions, like affordable rental and homeownership, are developed,” according to City Manager Craig Owens’ February memo to the city commission. “Pallet homes are needed now, but the City does not plan to use them forever.”

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“The City of Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas, made a commitment to the ‘Built for Zero’ initiative, which provides strategies to end chronic homelessness in this community,” the news release stated. “The ultimate solution to homelessness is housing, and efforts by the City and community partners to increase the amount of affordable housing are ongoing. While this work happens, immediate interventions like Pallet will help transition people experiencing homelessness off the street and into, non-congregate emergency shelter facilities where they can access services to aid their recovery from homelessness.”

The map below shows the location of the site:

Property records from Douglas County show the boundary lines for the property at 256 N. Michigan St. (Screenshot)
City of Lawrence on Twitter Pallet shelter
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