Lawrence City Commission to vote on pallet shelter village

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 8:14 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (KCTV) - The Lawrence City Commission is set to vote on an investment in the homeless population after officials proposed a pallet shelter village that could be built and in operation as soon as this summer.

A lot of the public showed up on Tuesday evening. When a citywide strategic assessment was done a few years ago, homelessness was one of the top three concerns among residents. The same is true for the city’s proposed solution.

What was formerly the site of Veritas Christian School, 256 N. Michigan Street, could soon be transformed into a pallet shelter village for people experiencing homelessness in Lawrence.

“The site has been empty for some time now and the buildings have fallen into disrepair, so we do think that being able to clear the buildings from the site and provide a new development that helps meet this need and improves the location will be a benefit,” said Assistant City Manager Brandon McGuire.

The village will be able to accommodate up to 75 people in their own private cabin surrounded by a supportive setting.

“Our facilities have to be built close to a transportation hub,” said Katya Hill, Pallet’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “There has to be running water, food, continuum around mental health care, addiction issues so someone can transition from the streets into a safe, dignified environment where they can begin their reintegration back into their community. That’s what Pallet is all about.”

The average stay will be 90 days, but one can last up to a year if needed.

The project will be federally funded, using money from the American Rescue Plan, and cost at least $1.84 million. The goal would be to have it up and running by July or August.

There are three elements being voted on by the Lawrence City Commission:

  1. Property acquisition ($725,000)
  2. The purchase of up to 75 pallet shelters ($1,113,854)
  3. Waiving elements of the zoning and fire code that might prevent the project from happening

Currently, there are more than 100 pallet shelter villages operating in 85 different cities. Case studies point to promising results.

“Our Vancouver, Washington, site just released new data,” Hill said. “They’re seeing huge numbers moving into permanent housing, accessing healthcare, moving into employment. They’re also seeing a reduction in police calls to that direct area.”

UPDATE: As of 8:15 p.m., the city commission was still taking public comment.