James Chiselom : “Racial Disparities in Shelter Guests – Lawrence Times”

People of color are disproportionately represented among guests at the Lawrence Community Shelter compared to the general population of Douglas County, according to recent reports presented by the shelter’s executive director, James Chiselom. Chiselom, who has been in his role for about a month and a half, shared the first of many demographic reports that will be provided monthly to the LCS board of directors.

In January, the shelter accommodated 221 “night-by-night” guests, with 54.3% identifying as white, 17.65% as Black, African, or African American, 9% as multiracial, and 5.9% as American Indian, Alaska Native, or Indigenous. These figures differ significantly from Douglas County’s population breakdown, which comprises 83.1% white individuals, 4.8% Black individuals, 4.5% individuals of two or more races, and 2.7% American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, as per the 2020 Census.

The report revealed that Black guests at the shelter are about 3.7 times more prevalent than in the general population of Douglas County. Additionally, among participants in the 90-day program, 55.6% identified as white, 22.22% as Black, African, or African American, and 8.9% as multiracial, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Indigenous.

During a recent meeting, Chiselom discussed policy changes, including mandatory assessments for guests who are asked to leave the shelter due to drug or alcohol use. The shelter is also implementing measures to address safety concerns and lack of women-only emergency shelter beds for female guests.

Furthermore, the board expressed concerns about the underrepresentation of women seeking shelter and discussed demographic data related to disabilities among guests. The reports aim to initiate conversations about the disparities and explore potential solutions.

In conclusion, the Lawrence Community Shelter continues to address the needs of its diverse guest population while striving to improve services and provide a safe environment for all individuals seeking assistance.

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