In second day of Douglas County budget hearings, agencies share proposals to address chronic homelessness, drug addiction and more | News, Sports, Jobs

In second day of Douglas County budget hearings, agencies share proposals to address chronic homelessness, drug addiction and more | News, Sports, Jobs


photo by: Josie Heimsoth/Journal-World

Douglas County Commissioners meet for their second day of budget hearings at the Douglas County Public Works Building, 3755 E 25th St, on July 9, 2024.

Multiple social service agencies — and, for the first time, a local church — are asking Douglas County for funding in 2025 to build new transitional housing and strengthen support systems for people struggling with homelessness and addiction.

On Tuesday, the second day of its 2025 budget hearings, the Douglas County Commission heard funding requests from several social service agencies whose projects would support the community’s plan to end chronic homelessness, “A Place for All.” As the Journal-World reported, the plan’s goal is to achieve “zero functional homelessness” by 2028, meaning that the number of homeless people never exceeds the community’s ability to house people in permanent housing.

Commissioners did not make a final decision at Tuesday’s hearings, but Deputy County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur said the county wants to prioritize projects that address chronic homelessness. She said in the past, the county has not always had the funding or support services needed to keep people housed.

For two of the organizations that addressed the commission Tuesday — the Cardinal Housing Network and Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church — it was the first time they had asked the county for funding. Both are seeking money to build more housing for people emerging from difficult situations such as drug addiction and homelessness.

Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church is seeking $900,000 to partner with another local organization, Family Promise, to build six transitional housing units for Family Promise clients on church-owned property. Family Promise would provide case management and other support services to families served by the units.

The Cardinal Housing Network, meanwhile, may not seem as familiar to Lawrence as other organizations seeking funding. It’s a new local nonprofit created to provide housing, supplemental care and educational programs for women recovering from addiction, and it’s seeking $383,000 to create eight permanent supportive housing units for this population.

It wasn’t the only organization seeking funding for such a project. A longtime player in Douglas County’s social services field, the DCCCA is asking for $800,000 to help fund its $4.2 million recovery housing project for women with substance use disorders and their children.

Not all of the “A Place for All” requests are for new housing. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, for example, is seeking $42,000 to fund its Wellness Wednesdays program, which uses a mobile clinic to provide on-site services like physicals, vaccinations and more at the Lawrence Community Shelter. The idea, as LDCPH Executive Director Jonathan Smith previously told the Journal-World, is to improve access to health care by meeting people experiencing homelessness in the community where they are located.

“The reason we’re able to launch Wellness Wednesday now is because of a community development block grant from the city, and we plan to spend the entire amount probably by the middle of next year,” Smith said Tuesday. “And it’s going really well, so it’s something we wanted to continue.”

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Numerous other social service organizations addressed the commission Tuesday, including O’Connell Children’s Shelter, Senior Resource Center, Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center, Willow Domestic Violence Center, City of Lawrence Family Shelter Project, Trinity In-Home Health, Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, Just Food, Housing Stabilization Collaborative and the Salvation Army. Here are some other highlights of those requests:

• O’Connell Children’s Shelter is seeking a six-figure grant to help provide resources and services to chronically absent students from K-12 schools across the county.

Erin Harmon, prevention services manager at O’Connell Children’s Shelter, said her organization has seen a significant increase in absenteeism in elementary and middle school classrooms. The agency is requesting $90,000 to hire two additional case managers for its truancy prevention programs, and another $275,495 for other truancy prevention services.

“We just have an excessive number of children and we’re trying to serve as many families as possible,” Harmon said.

• Local food bank Just Food is requesting an additional $25,000 in funding to help cover the rising costs of its food purchases. According to its application, the organization currently spends $40,000 per month on food purchases for its main pantry alone, and it also needs to stock its mobile pantry to serve rural and high-need areas in Douglas County. The application notes that 80 percent of Just Food’s funding comes from community donations, but that donations have declined significantly, and the food bank now spends nearly $20,000 per month on non-perishable items “that we used to be able to get for free.”

“Over the last year, we’ve had to start implementing more procedures and policies because we’re so busy,” Aundrea Walker, Just Food’s executive director, said Tuesday.

County commissioners have one more day of budget hearings scheduled before the commission begins deliberations on the 2025 budget. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky’s recommended budget does not include any increase in the county’s property tax rate, but that could change if commissioners choose to fund a large number of requests from outside agencies.

The County Commission will continue its budget hearings Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. The public can attend in person or via Zoom. Meeting information and hearing recordings will be available on the county website. Commissioners will begin their deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday, July 12, where they can begin adjusting the recommended municipal levy based on projects they want to include or exclude from the budget.

The final vote on the budget is scheduled for the county commission meeting on Aug. 28. To view the proposed budget, visit dgcoks.gov/open-budget.