Effective today, Dec. 13, Johnson County has a new homeless shelter where single adults can sleep overnight.
The city of Lenexa and the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church have reached a settlement that temporarily allows the church to operate a homeless shelter on site at 9400 Pflumm Road near Old Town.
The church had sued the city last month after city staff in October denied the church’s request to operate a homeless shelter on site.
The agreement allows Project 1020, an Olathe-based organization, to operate a shelter in the church for the next three winter seasons, ending April 1, 2022, or until the Lenexa city council adopts new codes regulating homeless shelters.
If new codes are adopted before that time, the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church will be required to operate under those codes.
“The City of Lenexa wants to be part of a comprehensive solution to the homeless issue in Johnson County,” said Beccy Yocham, Lenexa city manager, in a news release Friday afternoon. “This agreement will enable the homeless population to be served temporarily while we work toward a comprehensive solution that serves the entire community.”
Dan Dalton, the attorney representing the church, said “the parties have been working hard” since the hearing last week to resolve the case. That included an all-day session in Lenexa on Tuesday.
“We are grateful to the Court for encouraging this settlement and look forward to partnering with the City of Lenexa to craft a mutually agreeable ordinance to address overnight homeless ministries in the future,” Dalton said in an email.
Shelter will have capacity for 30 adults
The city is allowing 30 single adults to stay overnight in the church building — 10 beds less than what the church had initially planned to have for the homeless shelter. The church will have a social worker from Project 1020 to help the homeless individuals at the church, and the church will also provide them with meals brought in for dinner and breakfast. Volunteers are also required to stay awake in the night while homeless individuals sleep.
Per the agreement, the church is allowed to operate the homeless ministry from Dec. 13 through April 1 this year and the next three years. The homeless ministry will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The church was formerly Bonjour Elementary and is located in a single family residential zoning district. This fact was the reason the city had initially denied the church’s request in October to house a homeless shelter.
“The City of Lenexa has always recognized the need for homeless services in Johnson County,” Yocham said. “We are also charged with a myriad of responsibilities to our entire community – one of which is the duty to ensure that appropriate land use and zoning decisions are made.”
Yocham noted that city staff will begin an in-depth process to update the city code in a way that will comprehensively address how homeless shelters are regulated throughout the community. As usual, this process will include a public engagement component in which the city will collect input from residents and members of the faith community moving forward.
The city has agreed to pay a portion of the church’s attorney fees and costs to pursue the case. The church will also provide training to its volunteers for fire watch, health and safety, Dalton noted.
The church has also agreed to follow the policies and procedures of Project 1020 regarding intake, safety and security.
Judge Daniel Crabtree, a United States District Judge, heard arguments from both the church and the city on the case on Dec. 5. Crabtree had encouraged the parties to come to an agreement.