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Church Reaches Settlement With City On Homeless Shelter in Lenexa

Shelter Can Operate for Next Four Winters As Parties Search for Long-Term Solution

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Above image credit: A homeless person sleeps on a bench as volunteers and homeless outreach officials walk in the area during the Point In Time Homeless Census in Miami. (Lynne Sladky | Associated Press)

As it turns out, the city of Lenexa and Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church will not engage in a church-state legal battle over a proposed homeless shelter.

Instead, the church now has the right to operate a shelter for single adults, after the two sides settled a case the church filed against the city in federal court. 

The church was contesting the city’s rejection of its plan to open the shelter this winter at its building, a former elementary school at 9400 Pflumm Road. The church will operate the program in collaboration with Project 1020, a nonprofit that for many years has worked with churches to house homeless adults during the winter months.

Key terms of the settlement say that:

  • The church can use its building for a homeless ministry from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. this winter and for the following three years through April 1. Maximum occupancy will be 30 single adults.
  • The church will be allowed to serve meals brought in for dinner and breakfast.
  • The city and church will collaborate on crafting an ordinance within the next three years to permit homeless ministries in Lenexa.
  • The city will pay $15,000 toward the legal costs incurred by the church in pursuing the court case.

The church has also agreed to have a Project 1020 social worker on site to help the residents, and to abide by Project 1020’s policies and procedures for intake, security and safety.

In an email, the church’s attorney, Dan Dalton, said the congregation looked forward to  “partnering with the (city) to craft a mutually agreeable ordinance.”

Lenexa City Manager Beccy Yocham said in a statement that the city “wants to be part of a comprehensive solution to the homeless issue in Johnson County.” The agreement, she said, will give the city time to work toward a zoning solution “that serves the entire community.”

Mike Sherry is senior reporter for Kansas City PBS. He can be reached at msherry@kcpt.org or 816.398.4205

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