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Lawrence Community Shelter could face $2M budget shortfall; funding agreement with city in the works

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The Lawrence Community Shelter will likely be almost $2.1 million over budget in 2024 if it is fully staffed and it provides staffing for the city’s Pallet shelter village.

That’s according to preliminary numbers that Misty Bosch-Hastings, homeless programs coordinator for the City of Lawrence, presented to the shelter’s board of directors Thursday morning.

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The shelter’s board has agreed to the City of Lawrence’s request for the shelter to expand the number of people it is serving, in part to help ensure that people experiencing homelessness have a warm place to sleep on winter nights. In addition, the board has tentatively agreed that the shelter will staff the Pallet shelter village, which has now been constructed at 256 N. Michigan St.

Bosch-Hastings told the LCS board that she and Melanie Valdez, interim director of LCS, had worked together to lay out the shelter’s optimal staffing structure for the shelter, which is on the eastern edge of town, as well as the village. Those numbers are part of a proposed budget for a funding agreement with the City of Lawrence.

The village consists of 50 small, cabin-like structures that will provide shelter for veterans, older people, women emerging from domestic violence situations and people with disabilities who require specialized support and care.

Altogether, the shelter’s expenses for 2024 are anticipated to be about $3.06 million. About $2.7 million of that would be spent on staff salaries and benefits.

The village cannot open to residents until site operators are in place. The village staff will include one supervisor and the equivalent of 4.2 monitors, 4.2 lead monitors, 2.8 security staff members and two case managers, Bosch-Hastings said. That’s about 14 out of 54.4 total staff positions in the proposed budget.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times The Pallet shelter village at 256 N. Michigan St. is shown on Dec. 2, 2023, shortly after the emergency shelters were constructed.

One position in the draft proposed budget, with a salary of $40,000, is a benefits specialist/SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery) case manager. Bosch-Hastings said in her experience, a benefits specialist position often doesn’t get funded, but it can be very helpful for people experiencing homelessness. She said people can get tripped up when trying to secure sustainable income for housing, and it can take years to get Social Security or disability benefits, but with that specialist position, people can see benefits within a few months.

The draft proposed budget also includes a grant manager. Bosch-Hastings said she was hoping to get more grants to help with supplies and guest assistance. It also includes two maintenance positions that will hopefully help save on costs.

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Bosch-Hastings said she based the $233,550 estimate of revenues from donations, fundraisers and community foundations on the 2023 total, but she hopes that number will improve in 2024. Total revenues, including grants and $296,000 each from the City of Lawrence and Douglas County, add up to $980,223, according to Bosch-Hastings’ presentation.

Altogether, the anticipated expenses come in at about $2,074,900 over revenues.

Board members voted Thursday to give Rebekah Gaston, board treasurer, the authority to work with Bosch-Hastings and Valdez to finalize a funding agreement so that it can make it onto the Lawrence City Commission’s Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting agenda for possible action.

The city had also considered using about 45 extra Pallet shelters — 25 the city purchased as part of its contract, and 20 it received for free from an agency in Kansas City that could not use them — on land on the shelter campus. Bosch-Hastings said they were hitting pause on those plans because the site will require building a fence, electricity and more.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Lawrence Community Shelter, 3655 E. 25h St.

In a few months, once those costs become clearer and the site is up to Pallet standards, hiring staff to operate the second Pallet site behind the LCS building will likely be an addendum to the funding agreement with the city, Bosch-Hastings said. She said workers from Pallet will come to Lawrence to help install the additional shelters when the site is ready.

In other business, the search for a permanent executive director is ongoing. One of 10 finalist candidates withdrew, and board members are working to schedule interviews with the remaining nine.

Board members are still hoping to interview two finalist candidates on Dec. 21, but they plan to determine whether that will happen during their next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 in Meeting Room C at the Lawrence Public Library.

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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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