KC creative reuse center gives homeless new sense of purpose

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When you walk into Scraps KC, located in the West Bottoms, it looks like a DIYers dream. It's a creative reuse center that repurposes items usually tossed aside, while also giving a sense of purpose to the Kansas City homeless community.

Scraps KC owner Brenda Mott and her family have been helping the homeless community for the past nine years. At first, they helped them indirectly by handing out food from their car. Just over the last two years they have started helping the homeless more directly and host breakfast at the library every Saturday. They talk with them and try to understand what they are going through.

“You don’t know where your next meal is coming from. You don’t know if you are going to be warm for the night. You don’t know if the police are going to confiscate all of your things,” Mott said.

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One of the things the homeless told Mott they needed most were jobs. So when Mott opened Scraps KC in September, she wanted to serve as a resource. The store gives those who are homeless an opportunity to volunteer in return for food, dignity items, and a safe place to get out of the elements. Currently, the nonprofit cannot pay the homeless for their work, but Mott’s goal is to be able to offer a salary in the future.

One of Scraps KC's volunteers is Charles Ross. He is 48 years old and has been homeless in Kansas City for the past 18 months.

“It was my own doing. I got a DUI, got arrested, my car got impounded, I went to jail,” Ross said. “By the time I got out of jail, I’d lost my job and didn’t have the money to get the car out of impound. So this is where I am now, trying to get back up.”

His main goal right now is to find a job and get back into his 14-year-old son’s life. He said the hardest part is finding transportation to job interviews, and figuring out where he is going to sleep at night.

“If I don’t get off work until 5 p.m., but I have to be at the shelter before 5 p.m. to find a bed that night, I’ve got to make a decision,” Ross said. “Do I want to sleep somewhere warm, or do I want to work and stay out in the cold?”

Ross said working at Scraps KC has really helped lift his spirits.

“I really do enjoy coming here because it gives me a sense of pride and you know when you are out homeless on the streets sometimes you lose that,” said Ross. “When someone gives you a sparkle and gives it back to you, it makes you feel good again.”

On Scraps KC's very first day of moving into their location, four men who were homeless helped lift 12 and a half tons of materials. Mott said they helped move in the truck and offered to build things for her. 

“Most of the men and women that we know, we have known them for a long time since we have been serving more directly,” Mott said. “One of the gentlemen has been on the streets for 5 years and we call him our ‘HR Director’ because he has taken it upon himself to find people he knows that are responsible and good and hardworking and willing to give the time and effort.”

The ‘HR Director’ also goes by the name of Raymond. He said he helps Mott because of everything she has done for the homeless, and knows that Mott trusts him.

“She can put her trust in us and knows we can come down here, and if she has to leave she knows we aren’t going to take nothing, or do nothing bad,” Raymond said.

This sense of trust isn’t something people who are homeless experience every day. Mott said that there are a lot of misconceptions about people living on the streets, and most people are afraid of the homeless because they don’t really understand what they are going through.

“It’s really just kind of realizing that they are human and they need help,” she said. “They may not want help, but they want some love and respect. Just that kindness of just smiling at them, saying hello, yes those things are very uplifting to them.”

Mott hopes to provide this sense of love and respect on a daily basis at her store. She said 12 different people have come in from the streets to work, and they have about five people who are regulars. Their ages range from 19 to 60 years old.

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She also hopes Scraps KC becomes a place where community is built and where people can learn from each other.

“This is just a place, we love everybody exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from,” she said. “We just want to build a community of kindness and creativity and compassion for others. They find that here.”

Scraps KC is always taking in donations for the homeless, and Mott said if anyone is interested in volunteering or donating they should contact the store.

In addition to helping the homeless, Scraps KC is also starting an adopt-a-class program with the goal of raising enough funds to provide school supplies for more than 100 Kansas City classrooms in three months.

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