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Lawrence Community Shelter announces new director

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The Lawrence Community Shelter Board of Directors has announced James Chiselom as the shelter’s next executive director.

Board members voted Thursday evening to extend an offer of employment to their unanimous first-choice candidate.

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Chiselom will begin in his role Jan. 5, according to an email from the shelter Friday afternoon.

“James brings a wealth of experience and leadership, with more than 20 years dedicated to serving vulnerable populations,” according to the email from shelter board President Charlie Bryan. “He has worked extensively with individuals facing housing crises, homelessness, substance abuse disorders, and those experiencing dual diagnoses of mental health challenges.”

“His career highlights include a pivotal role as the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program Manager at Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC), where he managed HUD-funded programs that had a profound impact on statewide homelessness initiatives,” Bryan’s email continued. “Presently, James serves at Topeka Rescue Mission as Deputy Director for Community Needs and Services, overseeing the TRM Distribution Center and the Street Reach team. His commitment to holistic care and support is evident from his roles at Valeo Behavioral Health Care and Mirror, Inc., complemented by an Addiction Counselor Certification from Washburn University.”

Chiselom will lead the shelter into a year of vast change.

Board members on Thursday approved a budget of $3.43 million for 2024 — more than 2.5 times the shelter’s 2023 budget. The shelter is vastly expanding its capacity, and its staff members will operate the city’s new Pallet shelter village on North Michigan Street. In addition, shelter staff members recently voted unanimously to unionize, and they’re asking for a substantial pay increase among other changes that will be decided in bargaining.

“The Board firmly believes that James’s leadership will drive the growth and expansion of services at Lawrence Community Shelter, aligning with the evolving needs of our community,” Bryan wrote. “His experience and strategic vision will propel our organization forward.”

Chiselom is a father to a daughter and son. He has two dogs and a passion for music. He plays bass guitar.

Melanie Valdez has served as interim executive director of the shelter since April 2022. Board members voted Nov. 1 to open a national search for the next permanent director.

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