Shawnee council unanimously adopts new city code for homeless shelters

The Shawnee city council has adopted regulations that allow homeless shelters in any part of the city. Meanwhile, Lenexa is working to develop its own homeless shelter regulations. Above, empty cots at a shelter in a Lenexa church.

Shawnee’s city code now includes homeless shelters, crisis shelters and emergency disaster shelters. After extensive and lengthy discussions Monday night, the Shawnee City Council unanimously adopted the new regulations that

Shawnee’s city code now includes homeless shelters, crisis shelters and emergency disaster shelters.

After extensive and lengthy discussions Monday night, the Shawnee City Council unanimously adopted the new regulations that allow shelters in almost any part of the city.

Shawnee’s regulations are more lenient than what city staff have seen in other communities, said Stephanie Malmborg, deputy community development director.

“We pretty much across the board allow shelters in some capacity anywhere,” Malmborg said. “No other communities that I’ve seen anywhere have that flexibility, at least according to the codes that we researched.”

The new code offers the following four types of shelters:

  • Homeless shelter — an enclosed building or part of one run by a nonprofit for providing shelter, bathing/bathrooms, secure storage of belongings and a place to sleep at no charge. The shelter should include related support such as meals, medical and social services, counseling and training. (Requires special use permit in all areas of the city).
  • Temporary homeless shelter — Can only operate 90 days within a calendar year. (Allowed anywhere in the city).
  • Crisis shelter — Similar definition as homeless shelter but specifically serves people experiencing abuse such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking. (Allowed anywhere in the city).
  • Emergency disaster resource — Any organization directly responding to a declared emergency or disaster in the local area. Can use existing and/or temporary location to provide necessary emergency resources. Defined by the city’s Local Emergency Operations Plan. (Allowed anywhere in the city).

Below is a complete copy of the new text amendments for shelters.

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Temporary shelters, crisis shelters, emergency shelters and homeless shelters operating within a religious organization are permitted anywhere in Shawnee. To make a comparison, Lenexa is temporarily allowing a cold-weather shelter to operate out of a church while the city develops its own homeless shelter codes.

Stand-alone homeless shelters in Shawnee, however, require a special use permit. This means that neighboring property owners get to weigh in during a public hearing, and the application requires final approvals from the planning commission and city council. Crisis shelters are permitted without special use permits because their locations must be kept secret to ensure the safety of those seeking shelter.

Throughout the lengthy conversation councilmembers discussed how to ensure public safety, adequate facilities and management plans are clearly addressed in a satisfactory way before any shelter can open in the city.

Anyone interested in filing an application for a shelter in Shawnee may contact Stephanie Malmborg at (913) 742-6225 or smalmborg@cityofshawnee.org.

Below is a video recording of the city council meeting. Discussion of the zoning regulations for shelters begins at 18:30.



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