Lawrence City Commission approves strategic plan to end homelessness; county commission to consider

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved the joint city-county strategic plan to end homelessness. 

The Douglas County Commission will consider approving the plan during a meeting on Wednesday. 

The plan, “A Place for Everyone,” breaks the issues into five focus areas: Equity and Inclusion; Affordable Housing; Supportive Housing; Systems; and Emergency Shelter. Staff members first presented the draft plan to the county commission in March 2023. The commissions had a joint meeting in January to hear updates on the plan’s progress. 

The plan includes an estimate of about $267.77 million for the five-year plan — that breaks down into about $218.3 million for affordable housing; $28.4 million for supportive housing; $21 million for emergency shelter; $45,000 for equity and inclusion and $25,000 for systems. The county’s entire approved 2024 operating budget is $194.74 million, and the city’s total expenditures for 2024 are $472.33 million. 

The vote to adopt the plan doesn’t obligate the city to fund anything, “but it does say this is the plan that we should be pursuing as we build our plans on an annual basis in a multi year basis for funding,” Lawrence City Manager Craig Owens said. “… It’s giving us an estimate and it’s telling us this is something we need to be planning for if this is our intent.”

Alterations inevitably will be made, Owens said. 

The item had been on the commission’s consent agenda, but Commissioner Lisa Larsen asked that it be pulled for public comment. 

Several community members spoke to the commission, some calling for the plan to include more on specific issues, such as data collection and substance use treatment; others voiced concerns about property taxes and the estimated cost of implementing the plan. Others thanked the commission for considering the plan and encouraged them to adopt and fund it.

Lawrence city commissioners approved the plan with a vote of 5-0. 

Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said he looked forward to moving from the plan to full implementation. Commissioner Amber Sellers said that “this is one rising tide that can help lift a lot of boats here in this community.”

Larsen said she thinks that at some point, “we need to be having conversations about what limitations we can have as a community and the responsibility for this. There’s got to be a limit discussed as to what we can handle as a community.”

The agenda item and plan are below. 

Douglas County commissioners will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 at the Douglas County Public Works building, 3755 E. 25th St., to consider approving the plan. 

The meeting will be available via Zoom. Find the link to join via Zoom at this link. See the full meeting agenda at this link


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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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