© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unitarian Church And City Of Lenexa Reach Agreement Over Homeless Shelter

A picture of the message on the marquis at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in 2016.
A picture of the message on the marquis at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in 2016.

A church whose request to operate a temporary homeless shelter was opposed by the city of Lenexa will be able to do so after all.

Under a settlement reached on Friday, Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church will be allowed to use its building, a former elementary school, to house up to 30 homeless adults overnight from Dec. 13 through April 1 and for the next three years.

The agreement also calls for the city to work with the church to craft an ordinance permitting homeless ministries in Lenexa.

Dan Dalton, a lawyer who represented the church, said both sides had been working hard since a court hearing last week to resolve the case.

The church had asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the city from preventing it from carrying out what it says is part of its sacred mission “to serve and shelter the people who are homeless.”

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree urged both sides to come to an agreement and postponed ruling while they tried to reach an accommodation.

“The City of Lenexa wants to be part of a comprehensive solution to the homeless issue in Johnson County,” Lenexa City Manager Beccy Yocham said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This agreement will enable the homeless population to be served temporarily while we work toward a comprehensive solution that serves the entire community.”

The shelter will be open in the church, which is located at 9400 Pflumm Road,  from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The city had opposed the church’s request on the grounds the church is located in a single-family residential district. Yocham said the city plans to update its City Code “to more comprehensively address how homeless shelters are regulated throughout the community.”

“The City will engage residents and members of the faith community in this process. Like all codes, the Lenexa City Council will be the ultimate decision maker on new regulations,” Yocham said.

Lenexa has agreed to pay a portion of the church’s attorneys’ fees, $15,000.

Other provisions of the settlement agreement include:

  • The church will have a social worker from Project 10/20, a nonprofit that works with homeless people, on site.
  • The church will be allowed to feed the residents dinner and breakfast.
  • Church volunteers will be awake during the evenings while the residents sleep.
  • The church will provide fire, health and safety training to the volunteers.  

Currently there is only one homeless shelter – for four adult women – in all of Johnson County. Last winter, Project 10/20 served 240 homeless individuals in Johnson County, according to the church’s lawsuitagainst Lenexa.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Copyright 2019 KCUR 89.3

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health news at KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.
Dan Margolies
Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.