Homeless Services Center

The Board of County Commissioners' adopted priorities for 2023-2024 include “convene stakeholders and other partners to improve housing options for the resident needs identified in the Johnson County Housing Continuum” and planning for those experiencing homelessness. As part of that priority, the Board entered a real estate purchase contract for a building to serve as a homeless service center in Johnson County. Read more in this news release and this briefing sheet. Learn more about the county’s efforts to support those with housing and homeless assistance.

Homeless Services Center - Timeline of the Process

Request for Proposals Process

United Community Services of Johnson County had expected to announce the successful proposer around April 1. However, the review committee has requested additional information and clarification. We now expect to have a recommendation announced in May. An extension is not uncommon in RFP reviews and the review committee feels this additional information is essential in making the right decision for such an important effort for our community.

Board Actions

April 18, 2024  

The BOCC approved an amendment to the real estate contract to extend the closing date deadline by eight weeks, to on or around Oct. 31, 2024. The BOCC also approved an additional $350,000 to pay the seller’s franchise liquidation fee, which ended up being higher than originally anticipated once the county was able to review the seller’s franchise agreement with the hotel. More information is available in this briefing sheet. 

Feb. 22, 2024

Six new positions will be added to the Johnson County Mental Health Center homeless outreach services team of two. On Feb. 22, the BOCC voted to accept a grant from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services that will help JCMHC meet an increasing need in our community. As you’ll see in this news release, local data shows 56% of individuals contacted during the county’s 2023 point-in-time count reported mental health as a factor in their household. You can also learn more about this service expansion in this briefing sheet.

Dec. 14, 2023

The BOCC voted to enter a real estate purchase agreement with MAA Krupa Lenexa, LLC to purchase two properties: a hotel located at 9461 Lenexa Drive and a closed restaurant at 9471 Lenexa Drive. The BOCC approved a total purchase price of $6 million for the two buildings, plus $500,000 for due diligence activities. The funds come from the federal Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The contract includes 270 days of due diligence. Learn more in this briefing sheet. Read the real estate contract.

Project Background

Johnson County and its partners have been working on the issue of homelessness for several years. Please learn more in the following timeline and links.

  • In 2021, the results of the comprehensive Johnson County Community Housing Study were released.
  • The Board received a results report at their Committee of the Whole session on April 2021. At that meeting, the Board created the Housing Subcommittee (Commissioners Allenbrand, Fast and Hanzlick) to work with community partners and county staff.
  • The Housing Subcommittee made reports to the full board of Sept. 30, 2021, April 28, 2022 and April 6, 2023. (Learn more about their work in our Housing and Homelessness Assistance Guide.) The subcommittee’s recommendations included addressing homelessness, specifically supporting community efforts to create a homeless shelter.
  • In July 2023, Johnson County received a report with cover letter from Dignity Project that built on a series of studies to consider action to address homelessness. The county helped fund the report as part of a planning grant to explore the need for and viability of a homeless shelter in the community. The report outlined a 50-bed, non-congregate shelter for adults experiencing temporary or sporadic homelessness, staffed 24/7. It recommended the shelter include services like intensive case management and wrap-around services with a goal to stabilize and re-launch clients into permanent housing after about a 90-day stay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated April 18, 2024

What is a homeless services center?

The homeless services center will aim to provide about 50 private units for short-term shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Residents will receive services and support to help them work towards securing stable permanent housing. During the day, residents will be able to work, participate in job training and skills growing, receive health and/or mental health care, and connect with case managers to restore important documents, credit, or familial relationships.

The homeless service center will be staffed 24/7 and can accept people at any time. We envision indoor communal areas (not for sleeping), an intake space, laundry facilities, storage for donations and operations and plenty of flexible space for on-site services. The Johnson County Mental Health Center will provide mental health support both on- and off-site.

Is the homeless services center only for men?

No. The center will prioritize any adult, regardless of gender, who is experiencing homelessness. 

The center’s non-congregate model means that individuals or family groups will have private units, including in-unit bathrooms, which eliminates the need to set up separate spaces based on gender. Johnson County has shelter beds for adults with minor children, people fleeing domestic violence, and people who are justice-involved. The homeless services center will prioritize adults of any gender who do not fit one of these other categories because there are no other services available for them. 

Will people be lining up outside for a bed at night?

No. The center will be staffed 24/7 and can accept people at any time. This is different than an emergency overnight-only model, which is where you might see a line for beds. Residents may enter the facility different ways (drop in, scheduled, etc.), but should never need to wait outside. Given that an anticipated stay is between 30-90 days, once in a unit, residents will not need to look for a bed each night.

Will residents sleep in large communal areas?

No, the model here is a non-congregate shelter, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, commonly known as HUD, defines as “private units or rooms for temporary shelter for individuals and families and do not require occupants to sign a lease or occupancy agreement.” The rooms must have private toilet and shower facilities. They are not required to have private kitchens or living areas.

The facility will not have dorm-style sleeping units or shared bathroom facilities between unrelated households. These private spaces allow residents to feel more secure sleeping, have a secure space to store their personal items, and prevent further conflict, trauma or violence that is more common in congregate facilities.

Will residents have to leave the center during the day?

Much like you are not forced to leave your home during the day, neither are residents. The vision for the center is a 24/7, service-rich, mental health-centered environment to help individuals experiencing homelessness stabilize, with the goal of successful relaunch into permanent housing.

The level of services envisioned is much higher than an overnight-only facility and will provide many opportunities for residents to remain in the center and pursue stable, permanent housing.

How will the mental health needs of people who are unhoused be addressed at the center?

Mental health will be central to the services available at the homeless services center. Funding for staff to provide these services is the result of partnerships across agencies and levels of government. The Johnson County Mental Health Center will provide on-site services such as case management, therapy, and crisis intervention. JCMHC already provides homeless street outreach services to engage homeless individuals in the community, build trust, and connect them with immediate basic needs and connections to community resources.

These services will be expanded through a grant from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which the County accepted in February 2024. The funds will allow JCMHC to hire six new members of the homeless outreach team, including a coordinator, a clinician, three case managers, and a peer support specialist to provide assessments, personalized care plans, therapy, other mental health supports, and assistance with basic needs for unhoused individuals in Johnson County. The expand team will be able to provide support to homeless services center clients from the time they are engaged by street outreach, choose to enter the center, and as they transition with support to permanent housing.

Why this site in Lenexa?

After an extensive property search, the property at 9461 Lenexa Drive was the best fit because it met the following unique criteria appropriate for a homeless services center:

  • The distance from residential areas and schools (further than what is required).
  • Located near public transportation and employment opportunities.
  • Interior-facing doors to units for security and monitoring guest safety.
  • Space for individual rooms, with additional room for day programming, on-site food preparation, flexible space for increasing the number of beds in emergencies (e.g., natural disasters), and administration areas for operators.  

The closest neighbors are commercial districts and there are few clear sight lines from nearby businesses to the hotel; essentially, its location along the frontage road and the building’s placement on the property make it fairly isolated.

Why a hotel and not a vacant office building or a new build on open land?

The cost of land and new construction in Johnson County makes building new on a vacant site cost-prohibitive. Additionally, the lot would need to meet the criteria above.

Right-sized office space is also hard to come by. Much of what is on the market is very large or contains a mixture of office and warehouse space, which is not a good fit for conversion to short-term housing and a homeless services center. Additionally, many office spaces are located in strip malls with a shared parking lot, which is not ideal.

Where are we in the process?

On Dec. 14, 2023, the Board of County Commissioners entered a real estate agreement with the owner of the La Quinta at 9461 Lenexa Drive, including the former Denny’s restaurant at 9471 Lenexa Drive, which is not operational. The real estate agreement includes a very long (270 days) review period for Johnson County to conduct due diligence activities, including obtaining a private appraisal, title review, evaluation of the environmental and property condition, securing a Special Use Permit for the intended use of the property, and successfully negotiating a buyout of the hotel franchise and covering these fees. All the contingencies must be satisfied to close on the property.

United Community Service of Johnson County is managing the Request for Proposals process to identify an owner/operator for the center. The RFP was released in December 2023, and four agencies submitted proposals. All applicants currently provide human services/housing in the metro area. The submission of proposals is now closed and the RFP Review Committee process is underway. The successful proposer will be announced around May. There will be many opportunities for public education and engagement, especially after the owner/operator is identified.

How many people in Johnson County are experiencing homelessness?

According to United Community Services of Johnson County, the lead agency for the network of agencies that provide services to people experiencing homelessness, 235 people were experiencing homelessness in Johnson County during the night of the most recent Point in Time Count on January 25, 2023.

  • 185 (79%) were in a shelter or transitional living environment.
  • 50 (21%) were unsheltered, meaning they were living outdoors, in tents or vehicles, or in other places not meant for human habitation. Ten years ago, there were seven unsheltered people in Johnson County.

Does Johnson County have year-round emergency shelter for adults without special circumstances?

There are a few shelter beds for families, households fleeing domestic violence and justice-involved adults, but for people who aren’t in these situations, there are zero year-round shelters for adults experiencing homelessness in Johnson County.

Project 10/20 is the county’s only overnight emergency shelter for adults experiencing homelessness, but it is only open in the cold weather months, from Dec. 1-March 31. The shelter is not open during the day, even in the winter months.

What services exist for people who are experiencing homelessness today?

Johnson County currently has resources for people facing homelessness Johnson County’s housing crisis response system includes:

  • Very limited rent assistance and other financial assistance to prevent homelessness
  • Street outreach conducted by community-based case managers to help those staying outdoors get into a shelter or housing.
  • Family shelters, a domestic violence shelter, and transitional housing programs
  • Johnson County’s Department of Corrections offers justice-involved individuals a Problem Solving Bed for up to 60 days to assist with employment and stable housing.
  • Rapid Rehousing, which is case management and 3-24 months of rent assistance for households exiting homelessness into housing.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing is long-term case management and rent assistance for households with disabilities and other barriers to living independently.

Who will the center serve?

Because Johnson County has other shelters for people with children, this center will prioritize adults — men and women — without children in their care. Services, including emergency shelter, are available in Johnson County for people fleeing domestic violence, justice-involved individuals and families with minor children. There are zero beds for people experiencing homelessness who do not have one of these other qualifying factors.

The total Point in Time count on Jan. 25, 2023, showed 235 people experiencing homelessness in Johnson County. The vast majority, 75%, were adults-only households.

Has Johnson County conducted studies to determine the need for a center like this?

Yes.  Annual data, the experience of the agencies that provide housing services to vulnerable residents (called the Johnson County Continuum of Care on Homelessness), and two recent studies document the gaps in the housing crisis response system and outline how a homeless services center could help.

  • In 2021, the federal government provided additional funding to local governments to serve the unhoused. Johnson County submitted a Needs Assessment and Gaps Analysis, along with extensive feedback from the public and human service agencies, in its a Substantial Amendment to its Approved Action Plan.  The report showed that Johnson County has zero year-round beds for adults experiencing homelessness who are not justice involved or fleeing domestic violence and that, when compared to other possible uses for the federal funds, the highest priority need was shelter for adults.
  • In 2023, the county engaged the Dignity Project to make recommendations about the type of shelter and services needed. Find additional background on the work of the Continuum of Care and the Dignity Project.

Homelessness is part of a larger challenge governments and individuals face around attainable housing. The Johnson County Housing Study identified “unseen homelessness” as a housing challenge, stating “Many do not realize the effects that housing prices have already taken on many households in Johnson County. Homelessness is present, even though many of these homeless have jobs. The cost of rent and other essential needs is high enough to price some households out of reliable options. These populations are increasing in Johnson County.”

What action has the county taken to get to the point of purchasing property?

The Johnson County Continuum of Care, made up of agencies that provide services to the unhoused, has been planning for a shelter for years but has never had the resources to purchase a facility. The county started contemplating its role in the solution in 2021 with the creation of the BOCC Housing Subcommittee. Guided by staff research and the work of the BOCC Subcommittee, the Federal COVID-19 funds presented a good opportunity for one-time contributions toward solutions.

Specific actions include:

  • June 2022: The BOCC designated $6 million in ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for “unhoused solutions.”
  • October 2022: The BOCC approved a $60,000 contract for Project Dignity to conduct a community planning process and produce recommendations for a property plan and service provision for a year-round, low-barrier, non-congregant shelter in Johnson County.
  • December 2022: The Johnson County Housing Authority, in partnership with the Continuum of Care on Homelessness, received Board approval on the HOME-ARP Substantial Amendment. The amendment identified a non-congregant shelter as the singular priority for the $3.9 million federal allocation.
  • April 2023: The BOCC adopted its 2023-2024 Strategic Priorities, which include planning for those experiencing homelessness. Also in April 2023, the BOCC accepted the Housing Subcommittee’s final report, which included a priority action to address homelessness.
  • July 2023: The Dignity Project’s report was released, including key recommendations for a 50-bed non-congregate shelter. Find additional background information on the planning process.
  • The Dignity Project’s recommendations, in addition to other research outlined in the previous question, helped scope the real estate search and the RFP for a building owner/operator. That work was conducted by county staff, with direction from the BOCC and Legal Counsel, in the interest of maintaining a competitive negotiating position, as Johnson County does with all property acquisition.
  • December 2023: The BOCC released the terms of the purchase agreement in the Briefing Sheet.

How could this benefit Johnson County?

In addition to serving individuals who are experiencing homelessness, opening short-term housing and a homeless services center is a strategy for Johnson County to avoid encampments and some of the problems other communities face when large numbers of people are unhoused. Johnson County has a chance to address the issue before it becomes pervasive, as it has in urban areas and other nearby communities.

Will the county own the building and manage the day-to-day operations?

No. The county will search for partners to own and operate the center. United Community Services of Johnson County is managing the process to identify an operator. UCS is the lead agency for the Continuum of Care on Homelessness and has deep expertise in this area; they also facilitate many collaborative groups of service providers across the county and are well-positioned to conduct the Request for Proposal process to identify an owner/operator.

UCS released the RFP on Dec. 21, 2023. Proposals were returned by February 16, 2024 and the review and scoring process is underway. The RFP Review Committee is made up of county staff, subject matter experts, city leaders, and community members. An announcement naming the successful proposer is expected by May.

What are the minimum standards expected?

Lenexa City Code sets forth the required minimum standards to receive a Special Use Permit to operate in Lenexa city limits. Requirements include minimum staff to guest ratios for all operating hours; site plans; and management plans that address security; emergency operations for staff, guests and volunteers; guest rules of conduct; and communication plans for neighbors and the public safety personnel. These management plans will be the responsibility of the organization named owner/operator.

Will the center draw people who are unhoused from other areas?

The homeless services center is intended to serve Johnson County residents experiencing homelessness. The owner/operator will follow HUD guidelines to determine a person’s connection to the area. Callers for shelter will be screened for services and if they are experiencing homelessness in another area, or primarily reside outside the county, staff will refer or assist them to find services closer to their location.

Today, without a homeless services center, Johnson County residents rely on out-of-county or out-of-state shelters. This separates them from their formal and informal supports--like friends and family, health care providers, and case workers—and makes achieving stable housing harder.

How can the shelter be integrated into the Johnson County community?

Johnson County is proud to have a vibrant community with numerous amenities, public parks, and outstanding services. The center will serve as a vital safety net for our most vulnerable residents and provide robust supportive services that help them get back into housing. The homeless services center is a community asset we are missing and are excited to build through partnerships with faith groups, civic groups, businesses and individuals who are passionate about caring for people.

If you have questions that you didn't find addressed here, please use this page to contact us.