Citizens Express Displeasure at City Commission Meeting

Tensions were rising during the Lawrence City Commission meeting on February 7th. Many citizens were upset with how the city is handling the issue of homelessness in the community.

One such citizen is Jenn Wolsey, former homeless programs coordinator, who stepped up to speak alongside current resident of the homeless camp, Jennifer Adams. According to a Lawrence Times Article explaining the situation, Jenn Wolsey has been helping Adams campaign to be paid by the city for all the work she does at the camp, work that is supposed to be done by city staff. The city agreed to pay Adams but the memo was for a one-time grant instead of employment.

“As the person who created this program, I’m going to state very plainly that it was intended to be a peer model type program this was not a one-time check,” said Wolsey. “The one-time check was for 5 weeks at 500 dollars and the reason why it was that was because of the fact that it took so long to get her paid. So the $2500 was a total of 6 weeks and then after that, she was supposed to receive another 2000 dollars every 4 weeks which would have put her in December.”

This is not the only instance where citizens believe that the homeless population is being treated unfairly. During this public comment period, Michael Eravi, who is affiliated with a local organization that aims to hold city officials accountable shared his thoughts on the meeting agenda order.

“I sent an email to one of you asking you to reorder the agenda because homelessness is not a priority in this town obviously, because it’s at the end of the agenda,” Eravi said. “Why is that? Is it because we don’t want to talk about it, or you guys are too busy like she just said?”

He went on to address the public with his frustrations with how these issues are being handled.

“The problem is guys that it’s not always city staff, the problem is that it is the commission too,” Eravi said. “You want to play these games and you guys all need to be paying attention to what is happening up here because this is city government. This is city government that doesn’t care about what we the people think and how we the people feel.”

A common theme throughout these testimonies from the public is the need for more transparency that the city seems to have. Kirby Evers, secretary of the Lawrence Democratic Socialists of America, addressed this frustration directly to the commission.

“Just consider that frustration kind of happens whether we try to or not but there’s ways to lessen it,” Evers said. “Communicating that you guys are trying to learn about the conditions on the ground, being vocal with what are causing delays or what are things that you’re going to be considering is something important.”