The path to a positive future

Why are People Homeless?

The National Coalition for the Homeless has identified three primary causes of homelessness. LCS would also include Lack of Family Support as a primary cause.

  • Poverty

    • Eroding Work Opportunities
    • Decline in Public Assistance

  • Housing

  • Other Factors

    • Mental or physical illness
    • Lack of Affordable Health Care
    • Domestic Violence
    • Addiction Disorders


lawrence community shelter, lawrence kansas emergency homeless shelter

What is the lawrence community shelter?

The mission of the Lawrence Community Shelter is to provide safe shelter and comprehensive services and programs that provide a path to a positive future for people experiencing homelessness and are at risk for homelessness.

The Lawrence Community Shelter is the only emergency homeless shelter serving Lawrence and Douglas County in Kansas. From the first day a guest comes to the Lawrence Community Shelter (LCS), they begin participating in many activities to address the core issues causing their homelessnes or risk of becoming homeless. Each guest is engaged by caring, informed people concerned with meetiing their specific needs and offering a partnership to develop a plan to find solutions. These solutions may include employment, counseling, locating a home, or entering a recovery program for substance abuse and/or mental illness treatment. Night shelter guests are provided a secure environment and a sense of community, and referral to crisis assistance or day shelter programs.

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a few words about us

Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers

The Lawrence Community Shelter relies on over a hundred volunteers of all ages, to help in many different ways: making meals, listening to guests, serving on subcommittees, etc. Read More >>

Lawrence community shelter
staff and board of directors

These dedicated individuals are committed to providing a path to a positive future for LCS Guests.


LCS staff

LCS Board of Directors

Steven Robinson, executive director

Sally Bartlett, supervising case manager

Dianne Huggins, administrative assistant

Andy Brown, development director

Elizabeth Stephens, family programs director

Brian Blevins
Diane Elder
Emeka Kalu
Matt Gabbart
Matthew Kliewer
Maureen Bernhagen
Mike Wilcox
Rebecca Esparza
Robert Shanner
Steve Elder
Traci Goldsby
Anthony Laster
Drew Van Ehrenkrook
Michael Henninger
MJ McLendon
Shirley Phillips

Gail Vick, President

Price Banks, Vice President

Jerry Wells, Secretary

Joe Baker, Treasurer

Anne M Bracker
Mary Easterday
Kevin Freese
Donald Huggins
Ruth Hughes
David E Johnson
Rev. Peter Luckey
Linda Lungstrum
Roger Morningstar
Richard Morrissey
Colleen O’Malley
Gwen Perkins
Barbara Schnitker
John Tacha

Dudley Crow, Director Emeritus
Saunny Scott, Director Emerita





The Lawrence Open Shelter and the Community Drop-In Center merged in 2005 to form the Lawrence Community Shelter to address the needs of the community experiencing homelessness and who are at risk of homelessness. As each non-profit organization continued to grow and expand services, the staff and boards of directors realized that to help facilitate a more effective continuum of care to many of the same people, the merge was the best option. It also allowed both organizations to pool resources, staff, and funding as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The Community Drop-In Center History

The Drop-In Center was established in 1995 as a grassroots organization. Local churches provided day shelter against inclement weather for people experiencing homelessness in the community. The Center took a dramatic step in 2000 when it secured a permanent location at 214 W 10th Street and began offering additional relief-oriented services such as showers, laundry facilities, breakfast, and lockers for personal belongings. As the Center continued to grow and secure additional funding, more and more services were offered. Over the past few years, the focus of the Center continued to evolve toward rehabilitation services as well as general relief services. Guests could receive assistance securing housing, employment, counseling, and educational opportunities. Access to agencies and organizations offering complementary services such as job training, addiction counseling, mental health counseling, and health care were streamlined for guests through a counseling room where area agencies can offer outreach. This service allowed guests to overcome transportation issues and fragmented services that require vulnerable people to maneuver through a labyrinth of services.

In addition to providing services to people experiencing homelessness, the Center also focused on homeless prevention. The Center provided employment and housing services, referrals, transportation assistance, group therapy, fresh fruits and vegetables, a place to socialize, laundry facilities and job training to those at risk of homelessness. Many of the services we provided could be utilized by both those experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of homelessness, but the same resources can mean very different things to people in different situations.

Prior to the merge, Center staff included Executive Director, Tami Clark, and a part-time case manager, Kristin Harms. Several former and current guests of the Center worked on a volunteer basis. Additionally, guests could perform work for Drop-In Dollars, which were spent at the Drop-In Shop for items such as personal care items, clothing, backpacks, batteries, and sleeping bags. A 15-member Board of Directors offers guidance and assistance to the staff. In 2003, the Center offered assistance to 1,012 individuals, 80% of whom were homeless. The center was open from 8:00 am to noon, Monday through Friday for about half of the year, then was able to increase the hours through generous funding from the City of Lawrence. The Center was funded entirely through fundraisers, donations and grants.

Lawrence Open Shelter History

In the summer of 2001, the Lawrence Coalition for the Homeless Concerns operated an Emergency Shelter in the gymnasium of St. John's elementary school. While volunteering at this shelter, a group of concerned citizens realized that there are some individuals in Lawrence who are not served by any existing shelters. These volunteers founded Lawrence Open Shelter, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to address that need.

LOS's first purchase was 50 sleeping mats. In the winter of 2001-2002, the newly incorporated LOS and the LCHC together operated a holiday shelter, again in St. John's donated gymnasium space and with donated food and supplies, but this time with written policies, paid staff, and staff training. The primary aim of the holiday shelter was simply to provide nighttime shelter and evening meals during the coldest part of the year, but it gave LOS an opportunity to refine policies and procedures and work with the city and surrounding neighborhoods.

By Summer 2002, LOS was ready to staff and operate a shelter on its own. From June through August 2002, Lawrence Open Shelter operated the Summer Open Shelter 2002 in the gymnasium of St. John's School. Staffed by five paid employees (including one licensed professional social worker), the shelter was open for 48 nights and served an average of 22 individuals per night. This pilot project demonstrated to the community that Lawrence had a desperate need for an open shelter, and demonstrated that LOS can address that need safely and responsibly.

From Fall 2002 to Fall 2003, LOS board members worked non-stop to make plans, raise awareness, raise funds, and find a permanent home for the shelter. At last, the shelter found a home at 944 Kentucky. The building required extensive renovation, including installation of handicap-accessible showers and entrances. After renovation and review, the facility received its occupancy permit from the City of Lawrence on 7 December 2003.

The shelter opened on 8 December 2003 and has been open every night since.
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