Lenexa collecting public input on regulating homeless shelters in the city

Project 1020 will continue operating as a cold weather shelter through the end of March.

Months after Lenexa permitted a church to house a temporary homeless shelter for the winter months, city staff have started asking for public input on how to regulate shelters in the future.

For the past few months, Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church has been hosting a space for Project 1020, an Olathe-based cold weather shelter, to operate until the end of March.

Project 1020 had itself become homeless last year, after Olathe prohibited its operations within the city. When the church offered up its spaces and asked for permission from Lenexa this past fall, the city initially denied the application.

After a brief stint in federal court late last year following the church filing suit against the city over the issue, Lenexa agreed to allow a temporary shelter while the city updates municipal code to address homeless shelters.

Lenexa opened a survey earlier this month to solicit feedback during this process. Click here to participate in the survey.

Anyone can take the survey, regardless of residency in Lenexa. The survey poses such questions as whether homeless shelters should be allowed in residential or business areas of the city, what type of support services should be provided with homeless shelters, how many people may be allowed to stay each night, and the like.

Denise Rendina, city spokeswoman, said more than 1,000 people have completed the survey thus far. Staff will review the results after the survey ends March 18.

‘A lot of folks want to be a part of the solution’

Councilmembers Julie Sayers and Mandy Stuke, speaking only on behalf of their own opinions, said they have heard a handful of questions and concerns from neighboring residents over the past few months regarding the temporary shelter, which is located in the ward they represent on the city council.

They’ve noticed some misinformation or lack of information among residents, so they’re hoping to spread the word and engage the public in this process.

“It’s in the middle of a residential area, and people are concerned about that and concerned about where people are going to go when the shelter is not housing them,” Stuke said, noting residents’ comments she’s heard about safety and services. “I think those are valid concerns, and I’m not sure the communication has been there.”

Sayers said some of the residents who connected with her expressed interest in volunteering.

“A lot of folks want to be a part of the solution,” Sayers said. “They obviously want to help people in need. It’s just getting them plugged in in the right ways to do that.”

Sayers and Stuke said they hope the city can address homelessness, mental health and substance use issues as a combined effort with Johnson County and other agencies. Sayers said she also hopes to see a more permanent solution, like a year-round facility, that offers support services as well.

“I think we all feel as a council that it’s vitally important for the residents of Lenexa to participate in the process as we move forward,” Sayers said. “(We) really just want to hear everyone’s perspective on both sides of the issue. I think it will be important not only for people to learn what has happened here but how to maybe do it better.”