KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To send a message to city hall, a newly formed homeless union in Kansas City is camping out in front of the building — and they say they're not going anywhere.
Qadafi, who goes only by his first name, is the spokesperson for the Kansas City Homeless Union. He said people experiencing homelessness do not have a seat at the table, and they're fed up with city officials making decisions for them without their input.
"The best approach is a direct approach," Qadafi said. "We can form our own union and deal with people directly."
The group wrote out their demands, including one solution that would use funding to buy Land Bank homes for transitional and permanent housing and employ people without homes to bring those properties up to code.
"This is a city problem, and it can be fixed with the same money that they passing around with they friends, hooking them up with a program," Qadafi said. "People don't even know us, they don't even talk to us."
They also call for more places to simply take showers and wash their clothes.
"There's no water fountain to sanitize during a pandemic. There's no place for us to go take a bath," Qadafi said. "The city bragged about them providing over 700 porta potties for the Super Bowl parade last year, but during a pandemic, they have none nowhere."
Mayor Quinton Lucas convened a task force made up of people in the advocacy sector and chaired by Fifth District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw.
"Given the nature of what's going on within our city, we felt we needed to respond quickly," Parks-Shaw said.
The task force met for the first time Tuesday evening and went over topics that will be discussed during an upcoming listening session.
The goal for the listening session will be to allow agencies to talk about needs, problems and solutions.
"Another theme that tends to emerge is the need to really be able connect people, immediately upon housing them, to behavioral health and health care support," said Marqueia Watson, executive director for the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness.
The group will meet again virtually in two weeks.
Qadafi said he wasn't invited to the call but joined anyway.
"Who's representing the homeless at this table who's actually homeless?" Qadafi asked the 30-plus people on the call.
Several people nodded their heads.
Parks-Shaw agreed that everyone who wants to say something should be given a chance and will include that in the listening session.
The union is brand-new, but Qadafi said they should be included in every conversation from now on.
"If you not walking in these shoes, how you gonna make a decision for us?" Qadafi said. "Those who are closer to the problem are closer to the solution."
Lucas and Parks-Shaw have not commented on the union's demands.