As temperatures drop, Lawrence works to house homeless

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence is looking for ways to shelter more than 100 homeless people who are sleeping outside as the city's shelter operates at reduced capacity in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that commissioners could consider as soon as Nov. 3 whether to allow schools, event centers, recreation centers and other such buildings to house temporary overnight homeless shelters. Currently, only churches and other religious organizations can operate temporary shelters without a permit. The commission has already approved increasing the occupancy for temporary shelters from 15 to 40.

The discussions come after the Lawrence Community Shelter reduced its capacity from 125 to 40 people amid the pandemic. That has contributed to more people camping near the Kansas River and on city parkland.

The shelter is working to make changes, too, including adding a tiny home village on the shelter’s property that will house up to 48 people when it opens in May.

The shelter also is using federal relief funding to help house people in hotels and move them into permanent housing. The city is using some some of the money for portable trailers that will house facilities for those staying at a temporary campsite.