Olathe homeless shelter’s plans for new space on hold as city sorts out permitting

OLATHE, Kan. -- An Olathe nonprofit is working hard to make sure no one freezes to death in extreme winter weather.

Project 1020 was hoping to move into a permanent new home this season, but that's now on hold.

There are rows of cots and warm blankets to welcome guests every night during the brutally cold winter months at Branches Church in Olathe. It's the temporary home for the Project 1020 homeless shelter.

"There are homeless people in Johnson County whether we want to admit it or not. They're here and they need help and they need some place to stay," said Barb McEver, founder of Project 1020.

Branches Church is the third temporary home for the winter shelter since it started running in 2015, and working in a place that's not its own comes with limitations.

"They have been so accommodating, and I know it's a huge adjustment for the church and the members because we're here and they use this room. So three days a week we have to put everything up and make it look like we're not here," McEver said.

So McEver was thrilled to buy a former Masonic Lodge near Santa Fe & K7 to give Projext 1020 a permanent home. She has dreams of adding a full kitchen, showers and computer spaces to give guests everything they need for a fresh start.

But there's a problem.

"We have this building across town we own and we're insuring and paying utilities on and taxes on and we can't use it.," she said.

McEver said she talked with the city before ever buying the building to find out if it could be used as a homeless shelter. She got the green light in writing at least three times during the process and had lots of meetings with city leaders.

But recently, the city pulled the plug -- at least for now.

"It's only been in the last month I'd say, I've started feeling like a lot of pressure thinking maybe this isn't going to happen," McEver said.

The city of Olathe told FOX4 that although Project 1020 was cleared for how they could use the land, the building permitting had not been addressed.

At the same time the organization was buying the building, the city was also updating its codes. One of the changes, will now force Project 1020 to get a special use permit, which it is in the process of obtaining.

But it will take time to get that done, and neighborhood meetings will be required before the city approves it and the new shelter can open.

Project 1020 said it's supposed to meet with the city again next week and is cautiously optimistic the process can move forward, so that come next winter, the new building can welcome and help more area homeless.

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