Lenexa will allow Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church to house cold-weather homeless shelter again this winter

Project 1020, a cold-weather shelter, is allowed to open at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Old Town Lenexa this winter.

Lenexa will allow Project 1020, a cold-weather homeless shelter for adults, to operate out of Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church this winter.

The city was in the middle of developing zoning regulations for homeless shelters when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the process to a halt earlier this year. As a result of the delay and lack of adequate time for the church to respond to zoning regulation changes in time for this coming winter, the city is allowing Project 1020 to move forward with opening by Dec. 1, though new regulations have yet to be adopted. 

Barb McEver, founder of Project 1020, provided a statement expressing her appreciation for Lenexa city staff allowing the shelter to open on schedule in the city:

“Project 1020 understands any city’s need to represent the public’s interest through regulations and we were disappointed when their progress was interrupted last March due to COVID-19. Now that they are moving forward so much closer to the next season beginning in December, we also appreciate the City Of Lenexa extending its agreement with SM Unitarian Universalist Church through this season even if new regulations are adopted before April, 2021. With the potential impact of COVID-19 on evictions, and job loss, we anticipate an even greater need for emergency shelter this winter, and Project 1020 is grateful to the City and Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church for their support.”

Meanwhile, city staff will present draft zoning regulations for the city council to discuss in committee Tuesday, Aug. 25. Public input will be accepted, and Project 1020 encouraged people to come voice their opinions.

OK FOLKS! HERE WE GO AGAIN!Please attend a meeting on August 25, at 7pm in the Community Forum at Lenexa City…

Posted by Project 10-20 on Saturday, August 22, 2020

About 1,600 people participated in Lenexa’s online survey about regulating homeless shelters ahead of tonight’s meeting, roughly 1,300 of whom said they live in Lenexa. The survey results indicate:

  • A majority of respondents said they supported a regional approach to serving homeless populations, with 24-hour services that provided basic needs such as meals, daily hygiene facilities like showers, and social services such as mental health counseling, addiction programs and employment assistance.
  • Slightly more than 50% or respondents support allowing shelters in residential areas.The church where Project 1020 will operate is located between Old Town businesses and neighboring homes. 
  • More than 75% of respondents support allowing homeless shelters to operate in commercial, non-residential areas. 
  • More than 75% also believe a homeless shelter should operate year-round, not just during times of the year when extreme temperatures are likely (for example, in the winter.) 
  • Roughly 40% believe it’s important to place homeless shelters within walking distance of public transportation and support services such as food, medical and social service agencies.
  • More than 80% believe a code of conduct is necessary to ensure the safety of staff/volunteers and guests at a homeless shelter, as well as an emergency/safety/security plan to address on-site incidents.

Lenexa city staff had planned to present regulations during a joint work session of the city council and planning commission on March 24, but the meeting was canceled due to stay-at-home orders and other public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Shortly after that, the Lenexa City Council allowed the shelter to continue operating through April 24 due to the shelter-in-place restrictions that prevented people experiencing homelessness from accessing public accommodations such as restrooms.

Project 1020 and the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church initially began steps to house the shelter in Lenexa last year, after Olathe denied the shelter’s request to continue operating in that city. Then, Lenexa city staff in October, 2019, denied the church’s request to host the homeless shelter, citing the city’s current zoning regulations that lack specifications for such uses.

The church responded with a lawsuit, and after a brief stint in federal court, the city conceded to temporarily allowing the shelter to open last winter

Located in Old Town near Santa Fe Trail Drive and Pflumm Road, the church will again host Project 1020 from Dec. 1 through March 31, 2021. Shelter hours of operation are 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The shelter will have 30 beds.