Homelessness has taken the spotlight in Shawnee. Most identify it as a problem, but few share a common idea for a solution.
Salvation Army Lt. Philip Canning said it’s going to take the whole community to come together to solve Shawnee’s homeless problem.
“Homelessness is a complex issue,” he said. “Our challenge is to figure out what causes it and address that.”
Whether someone’s health keeps them from holding down a job, or whether there are mental health or other issues, there’s a story behind each of those who find themselves homeless.
The Shawnee city commission passed a moratorium on homeless shelters after the Shawnee Rescue Mission proposed a large overnight shelter with a day shelter attached. Commissioner James Harrod made the motion for the moratorium, and, along with several others, questioned the need for another shelter.
Statistics at the time estimated the number of homeless in Pottawatomie County to be around 125, with 25 being considered “unsheltered” homeless, and the remaining 100 having shelter of some kind, but not a home of their own.
However since many of the homeless in Shawnee do not use the existing Salvation Army shelter, several claimed an additional shelter would be unnecessary.
Glenn Blankenship with the Shawnee Rescue Mission, the organization proposing the additional overnight shelter, estimates the number of unsheltered homeless to be higher.
He explained that the numbers fluctuate, and the definition of a “shelter” is sometimes subjective. Blankenship said he does not consider a shed with no electricity or running water to be a shelter, however some do, he added.
Blankenship said he still disagrees with the assumption that an additional overnight shelter was unnecessary or a duplication of service.
“We felt like it was a big problem, and we have for years,” Blankenship said. “There’s different approaches.”
“The Salvation Army can’t do everything all by themselves,” he said, while praising the church for their efforts.
Blankenship added that he hopes people are beginning to see how rampant the problem truly is, and may change some minds and lift the moratorium.