As dozens of people are forced to leave the local homeless shelter, social service agencies are asking the community for help of all kinds — including housing, camping gear and nonperishable food — to assist those who will soon be left with no other options.
On Aug. 30, the Lawrence Community Shelter, which also provides guests three daily meals, will reduce its capacity from 125 to 65 people. The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center Homeless Outreach Team is coordinating a campaign with the shelter to help find living arrangements or otherwise assist as many of those people as possible. Bert Nash provided the Journal-World a prioritized list of how the community can help, with the resources sought including affordably priced apartments, volunteer labor, RVs, land for camping and hygiene items.
Bert Nash Homeless Outreach Program Manager Mathew Faulk said the first priority is to get as many people as possible into some kind of housing, but that the program would also like to gather supplies to make living outdoors more comfortable for those who must ultimately resort to that option.
“There are approximately 60 people who are exiting the shelter who do not have anywhere else to go,” Faulk said. “And we are attempting to get some resources in place that will help equip them to live outdoors more easily, if we simply can’t find anywhere for them to go.”
The shelter is reducing its capacity due to a funding shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars and changes to what the shelter considers safe staffing levels, as the Journal-World previously reported. The shelter has been working with social service agencies to assist the approximately 60 people who must leave the shelter and attempting to find those guests alternative living arrangements, but shelter leaders have acknowledged those solutions are limited.
The resources and volunteer jobs needed to support the people being displaced from the shelter include the following, according to the Bert Nash team’s list, in order from highest to lowest priority:
1. Landlords willing to offer vacant rental units for lease at affordable, income-based rates; or landlords willing to lease rental units that need fixing up in exchange for having volunteers, service agencies or tenants make those repairs.
2. Volunteers to help fix up apartments or otherwise donate time to assist those forced to leave the shelter.
3. Monetary donations to cover rental deposits and the first month’s rent; the cost of repairing an apartment; or other costs to assist those exiting the shelter. Faulk said that could also include paying for motel stays, bus tickets to another shelter, camping supplies and passes for legal camping areas.
4. People willing to sponsor someone forced to leave the shelter by covering the cost of rent; offering a room or other dwelling space; or covering the costs of going back to school or pursuing other life goals that will help them become financially stable.
5. Donations of large backpacks, local bus passes, nonperishable food, gift cards for grocery stores, and hygiene items such as hand sanitizer, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo.
6. Donations of RVs or other livable mobile structures, such as converted buses or vans.
7. Making private land available for people to camp or place a RV or other converted vehicle.
8. Employers willing to hire people experiencing homelessness and who may have poor employment and legal histories.
Those interested in volunteering or donating resources to assist those exiting the shelter can contact Faulk at 785-550-5023. In addition to the resources listed, monetary donations can be made to the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center Homeless Outreach Team, which Faulk said will go exclusively to provide direct assistance for basic needs, transportation, medications and housing for those displaced from the shelter. Those donations can be made at Bert Nash, 200 Maine St.
Donations to assist the Lawrence Community Shelter with its financial needs can be made at the shelter, 3655 E. 25th St., or by calling 785-832-8864.