Project 1020 homeless shelter in Lenexa closes until next winter — where will residents go?

With the closing of Project 1020 for the winter season, virtually no options for shelter remain in Johnson County. The shelter is the only cold-weather shelter that serves single adults. On a night this past winter, guests stood in line for food at Project 1020, above. File photo.

The winter season at Project 1020, Johnson County’s only cold-weather homeless shelter available for single adult men, is over.

Now for summer, there are very limited options for adults without children to find shelter in the county.

Hosted by Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Old Town Lenexa, Project 1020’s last night open was Wednesday, March 31.

The shelter serves both men and women clients, but for adult single men it is the only shelter option available in Johnson County. Other shelters in the county do serve women in abusive relationships, as well as adults with children.

The final night last week was a busy night as usual, as shelter volunteers served dinner and helped guests get settled for the night.

It was 30 degrees the following morning.

Jennifer Schmidt, one of Project 1020’s leaders, said March 31 was a sad day because the shelter is a community.

“People, like a family, kind of learn to live together, and it’s this love-hate relationship,” she said. “So even though people can make each other crazy, they do miss each other. And nobody’s sure that they’re going to connect again.”

Options for the unhoused in summer

Some of the guests face barriers when trying to stay connected: being in different parts of the metro, lacking transportation, a cell phone or internet connection.

You “literally have to run into somebody” to see one another again, Schmidt said.

As far as options for guests receiving help at Project 1020, “nothing has changed” since the shelter first opened. Some guests use the winter to work and save up money in order to try to rent an apartment or stay at a hotel.

However, having an eviction on their record can make that challenging or impossible.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also presented a unique set of challenges, giving even more limited options for folks without a home base to go during the daytime hours. Libraries and some cafes or restaurants limit the number of hours that customers can stay in order to ensure physical distancing indoors.

The shelter residents at Project 1020 could look for another shelter outside Johnson County, stay in a tent or perhaps hop from couch to couch at friends’ homes.

Some may have families to visit, but those relationships may be strained. Each individual’s unique circumstances often dictate their experiences getting help in Johnson County.

“Those are the options people have,” Schmidt said. “There’s nothing magically that can happen in four months.”

Wait lists and limitations

Debbie Collins, director of Aging and Human Services for Johnson County, agrees.

“The bottom line is that there are very few, and likely, no options in Johnson County unless someone is already in the system or the queue for a spot,” Collins said via email in reference to The Salvation Army Family Lodge in Olathe, which is perhaps the only shelter available year-round in Johnson County.

However, the shelter has frequently long wait lists for a spot there, she added, and is aimed at families, not single adults.

“Unfortunately, few shelter options exist for people experiencing homelessness in Johnson County,” Collins said via email. “The scarce shelter resources are typically reserved for women with children or families, and those who are not in that category are less likely to find shelter assistance.”

Collins said the “very best option” for folks in Johnson County trying to get help from an agency would be to engage in case management and develop a longer-term plan.

She noted that mental health, substance abuse issues and “unproductive relationships with family and friends” sometimes accompany chronic homelessness and need to be addressed as well.

“Until the underlying issues of why a person finds themself homeless is addressed, simply putting a person in shelter does not resolve their dilemma,” she added.

Resources

Here is a list of other organizations in and around Johnson County besides Project 1020 that work to provide shelter or relief for individuals experiencing homelessness:

  • The Salvation Army Family Lodge in Olathe — Almost always completely full with families but is sometimes able to send someone to a hotel with a voucher for a night or two. Call (913) 829-0578 or click here for information about available services.
  • Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas — Does not have a shelter but can occasionally assist people experiencing homelessness in other ways.  Call (913) 433-2100 or click here for information.
  • Johnson County Mental Health Department —  Has a street outreach program but no shelter.  The department is occasionally able to find hotel vouchers as well. Call (913) 826-4200 or click here for information. Click here for a directory of emergency services.
  • Johnson County Interfaith Hospitality Network — An interfaith homelessness intervention program that helps restore stability to situationally homeless families in Johnson County. Call (913) 345-2121 or click here for information.
  • Hillcrest Transitional Housing — Offers case management for residents to solve root causes of their homelessness. Call (816) 994-6934 or click here for information.
  • Oxford Houses — A nonprofit to promote self-sufficiency and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Click here to see a list of Oxford House listings in Kansas.

Editor’s note: If this story is missing any resources in Johnson County, please send to stories@shawneemissionpost.com.