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Woody Park campground to provide temporary shelter for up to 20 individuals

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 4:41pm

A temporary, supported campground was set up on Nov. 3 in Woody Park. The campground will provide temporary shelter for up to 20 individuals with underlying health conditions living in unsheltered, unsafe living environments as screened and identified by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center Homeless Outreach Team (HOT).

The campground will be managed 24/7 by Lawrence Parks and Recreation staff in conjunction with the Bert Nash outreach team. The goal of the project is to provide chronically homeless individuals with an opportunity to transition from homelessness to being housed.

The campground is being funded through federal CARES Act money that was awarded to the City of Lawrence by Douglas County in the amount of $374,000. The campground will likely operate from November 2020 through March 2021.

The campground is being provided thanks to the following agencies and partners: City of Lawrence, Douglas County, Lawrence Parks and Recreation, Bert Nash Center, LMH Health, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, Salvation Army, Just Food, Pinckney Neighborhood Association and the Elgin Woody family.

We kindly ask the public to respect the privacy of the campground’s occupants.

FAQs about the campsite:

Q: What is a permitted campsite?

A: The Woody Park campsite provides a safer living space for people who are living in unsheltered spaces in the community which pose safety risks to the individual and/or adjacent environments (i.e. doorways, under bridges, roadways). The campsite was granted a “Temporary Special Event Permit” by the Lawrence City Commission on Oct. 6, 2020, with a timeline of 6 months or less.

Q: How is this campsite different from all the other campsites in Lawrence?

A: This is a formal sanctioned campsite with a set of rules (Code of Conduct), managed 24/7, and a pilot program to help facilitate the transition of the homeless to housed. Currently, camping is occurring all over Lawrence without any organization or oversight. Individuals also may not be able to access the services they may need.

Q: Why was a permitted campsite opened in Lawrence?

A: This project was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which calls on communities to ensure that homeless populations have access to sanitary living conditions and facilities in order to meet basic hygiene and health needs. In addition, this project aims to connect the community's growing homeless population to service providers that promote recovery, barrier reduction, and connections to permanent housing.

Q: How is the campsite funded?

A: Federal CARES Act funding awarded to the City of Lawrence by Douglas County in the amount of $374,000 will fund operations and acquisition of materials, supplies and equipment, including portable trailer restroom, shower and laundry facilities. Seventy percent of the project costs were utilized to purchase portable shower, restroom, and laundry trailers that will be permanent assets for Lawrence and Douglas County communities in serving the homeless populations in the future who often lack access to these facilities. The portable trailers could also be utilized in responding to a future emergency disaster response. Funds to operate the project from January through March will come from the Kansas Housing Cooperation through the City of Lawrence.

Q: Why wasn’t the CARES Act funding used to pay for housing instead (i.e. deposit/rent)?

A: The CARES Act funding requires that all funding be utilized and services completed by December 30, 2020. These restrictions limited the ability of project stakeholders to use funding for a deposit and rental payments. The individuals served at this site will have access to additional programming and funding available through the Rapid Rehousing program administered by Bert Nash Center. The ultimate goal of this project is permanent housing. Renovation options were considered, but limited due to land use code restrictions after close consultations with city planning and zoning staff. A special-use permit would have been required to proceed which would require a lengthy process that would delay use of the funds before the Dec. 30 deadline. The project team is currently working with city planning to identify a future site with more permanent weather resistant structures.

Q: Who is charged with managing the permitted campsite?

A: Physical management of the campsite will be provided 24/7 by the City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation staff in conjunction with Bert Nash Center staff who works with the homeless year-round and have the skills to address social service needs. The County, while not having a physical presence in the campsite, is also an equal partner in overseeing the management of the campsite.

Q: How many people will be located at the campsite?

A: Up to 20 individual, socially-distanced campsites will be included in this project. Single individuals will be the primary focus. Two-person situations may be allowed if a familial connection can be established and reasonably documented.

Q: How long will the campsite be open?

A: This is a temporary campsite with a planned opening of early November 2020. Due to restrictions associated with federal CARES Act funding, the camp is scheduled to be open through December 30, 2020. If additional operational funding can be secured, the project will remain open through February or March 2021 at which point all operations will cease.

Q: Who will be allowed to live at this campsite?

A: Homeless individuals with underlying health conditions living in unsheltered, unsafe living environments as screened and identified by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). The outreach team plans to have a staff member on-site daily to support operations and optimal conditions for recovery and connection to housing.

Q: How can a homeless individual request a space or be referred to the permitted campsite?

A: The Bert Nash Homeless Outreach Team will lead all client referrals and screening, and coordinate intakes with Lawrence Parks and Recreation camp management.

Q: Will the campsite be open to the public/visitors?

A: The campsite will be fenced with a secure entry/exit to ensure the safety and privacy of residents while monitoring resident comings and goings. Community agency service staff will be allowed to visit with clients; however, other guests will not be allowed.

Q: What are the expectations of camp residents related to behavior and any interactions with the neighborhood?

A: Please refer to the Camp Woody Code of Conduct.

Q: Will criminal background checks be performed on camp residents?

A: Yes. As part of the initial assessment and client referral process, all camp residents will be subject to a criminal background check.

Q: What happens to individuals that can’t be served by the campsite?

A: The Bert Nash Center outreach team will coordinate with area providers for placement in area hotels utilizing available CARES Act funding. Camp management will work to address and resolve all issues as soon as possible, including but not limited to law enforcement and fire/medical services as needed.

Q: What will happen when outdoor temperatures are below zero and dangerous to residents?

A: Camp residents will be provided with high-quality weather resistant, new equipment, including tents, cots and sleeping bags. Residents also have access to specially-selected ceramic heaters that can be safely utilized in each individual tent, which has been reviewed and approved by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical. Managers will work with community partners to provide access to bus passes and opportunities to utilize warming center spaces during the day as needed.

Q: How can I help?

A: The Bert Nash Center Homeless Outreach Team is seeking donations for the Woody Park campsite. Needed items include: First Aid products, hygiene products such as conditioner, shampoo and deodorant, laundry soap, toilet paper and paper towels, thermal coffee cups and water bottles, socks/gloves/stocking caps, and hand sanitizer. Donations can dropped off at the Bert Nash Center, 200 Maine St., Suite A. Financial donations can be made at https://bertnash.org/donate.

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Media Contact

Karrey Britt, Communications Specialist
785-330-2894