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Volunteer shortage endangers Lawrence emergency shelter

Posted at 4:10 PM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 17:10:45-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — A shortage of volunteers is jeopardizing Lawrence's ability to operate a winter emergency shelter that was set up because the city's main homeless shelter had to reduce its occupancy during the pandemic, officials say.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Lawrence Community Shelter has the capacity to serve 125 people most of the time and 140 people during the winter. But it has been housing only a maximum of 40 people during the coronavirus pandemic so it can space people out and provide areas to quarantine.

This fall, the Lawrence City Commission voted to allow the city to use two buildings to provide overnight shelter during the winter for up to 150 people. But city officials say the city may have to close the shelter if more volunteers don't come forward.

"We desperately need volunteers," said Roger Steinbrock, who oversees the Parks and Recreation marketing division.

Stephen Mason, the city's volunteer coordinator for the winter emergency shelter program, said as weather has started to turn colder, more people are coming. There were 28 people on Tuesday night.

"The need is there; it's coming back," Mason said, adding that the city maintains a ratio of one volunteer to 10 guests.