Lawrence Community Shelter board will complete review of agreement with city on Monday

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Members of the Lawrence Community Shelter board on Thursday did not complete their review of a draft agreement with the City of Lawrence and instead voted to authorize some executive board members to hash out the agreement on Monday.

Preliminary numbers that Misty Bosch-Hastings, homeless programs coordinator for the City of Lawrence, presented to the board last week indicated that the shelter will likely seek about $2.1 million from the city for its 2024 operations.

Bosch-Hastings on Dec. 7 presented a proposed budget that included a staffing structure for the Lawrence Community Shelter to run its facility on the eastern edge of town as well as operating the city’s Pallet shelter village on North Michigan Street.

Melanie Valdez, interim executive director of the shelter, this week presented her ideal staffing structure for the shelter. She recommended one fewer administrative position and, instead, more frontline workers to engage with shelter guests and ensure safety.

Valdez also said she was concerned that the salaries in the proposed budget wouldn’t be high enough to attract and retain the best applicants for some of the executive team positions.

“We have the money to do things right, and I just want to make sure that we are really cognizant of what we can do and just think bigger,” Bosch-Hastings said. “… We don’t have to scale down right now, so let’s not do that.”

As part of the staffing discussion, board members talked about onsite security for the shelter and the village.

Bosch-Hastings said the city had promised neighbors of the Pallet village that the site would have security.

Board member Elizabeth Keever said she thought the shelter should have security present onsite to ease people who might otherwise be uncomfortable or feel unsafe staying at the shelter. However, Christina Gentry, board secretary, said she was concerned that onsite security could cause more harm as some people staying at the shelter may already be heightened and triggered.

Valdez said having people present can be triggering and traumatizing for people and it’s important to strike a good balance.

“I can tell you that when we have staff that are really trained in deescalation and conflict resolution, and engaging with people, and there’s adequate coverage and people present, we hardly have any issues,” Valdez said.

The Lawrence City Commission’s agenda for its Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting was posted Thursday afternoon with placeholder information on the agreement with the shelter.

The draft agreement indicates that $1.5 million in support will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds already set aside in the city’s 2024 budget. Unknown amounts will come from the city’s general fund and its special alcohol fund, tax revenues derived from alcohol sales.

Here’s the draft as of Thursday:

20231219-City-agreement-w-shelter-draft

The board voted to authorize members of their executive team to meet with Valdez and Bosch-Hastings to settle the final details of the agreement on Monday for the city commission to consider Tuesday evening. Board President Charlie Bryan indicated they would likely have the agreement hammered out by early Monday afternoon.

Board members will discuss during an executive session on Dec. 21 how to proceed with the executive director search. Two of board members’ top 10 candidates have dropped out of consideration, but the board has narrowed the field to three top candidates. None of the three are local, board members indicated.

The board has also planned a special meeting for Thursday, Jan. 4.

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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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