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Homeless center seeing 'unreal' uptick due to rising rent, lack of affordable housing

Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 20:25:41-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One organization that helps the homeless is finding that more and more people can't afford their rent and are becoming newly homeless. 

Hope Faith Ministries in Kansas City, Missouri, said the margin of error is getting smaller and smaller for many. High utility rates, getting behind on rent, past evictions and affordable housing all play a part in the uptick of clients the organization serves. 

Hope Faith employees said they used to see a decrease in numbers at the beginning of the month when people would receive their assistance checks, but not anymore. 

Callie Javaid is one of those clients now seeking help. 

On Wednesday, she sat down before a tray of food, surrounded by strangers at Hope Faith's cafeteria, saying a short prayer. But she said that's barely getting her through anymore. 

"I really don't have hope," she said. 

Javaid and her grown son, who has autism, have been homeless since last spring. In January, they got an eviction letter. She was still working 40 hours a week helping take care of the disabled, but she eventually lost her job because of car troubles. Recently, she found out she can't get her Social Security checks. She's been off her disability medications for three months. 

For now, her car is home. 

"I try to find someplace warm if I can," Javaid said. "If not, we just try to drive around with the heat on or park at this parking lot for an hour, drive someplace else, park for an hour." 

That's how she found herself at Hope Faith Ministries, trying to find some hope.

Javaid's son, whose name she wants to keep private, recently got an overnight job at a grocery store. When 41 Action News spoke with Javaid, her son was sleeping "in an abandoned home with every blanket we have, and our dog," she said. 

Cristi Smith, operations coordinator at Hope Faith, said the uptick in clients has been "unreal." 

"We've been seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of guests who have been coming through our doors. I believe 35, 50 percent," Smith said. 

Every year, shelters see increased numbers when it gets cold. But this year is different.  

Hope Faith employees tracked the numbers. For example, on Oct. 10, 2017, Hope Faith served 119 people. On Oct. 10 of this year, the organization served 263.

During the client intake process, Hope Faith is finding that people are getting priced out of their areas. 

"If you're on a fixed income of $750 a month, you don't want to spend more than half of that, $350-something, for rent. And that's almost impossible to find," Qayyim Durant said. 

Durant runs WELL Inc., and works solely on finding housing for the homeless. WELL is housed within Hope Faith, so he finds many of his clients there. He interviews 10 to 15 people a day, many of whom just lost their housing. 

A $350 rent in the Kansas City metro is impossible to find, he said. Studios in low-income and traditionally "bad parts" of town go for at least $450, sometimes with all utilities paid. But the quality is lacking, many say. 

Still, Durant said his clients will take anything they can get, but those units go fast. 

As for Section 8 and public housing, Durant said the waiting period is much longer than it was around five years ago.

"I'd sign some of them up for HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) housing, and generally it would take around three weeks to six weeks maybe. Now it's taking six months to a year, easy," Durant said. 

Currently, around 13,000 people are waiting for affordable housing in Kansas City. The topic is one that city officials are currently debating, trying to set a realistic standard for what "affordable" means.

Durant said many of his clients are getting priced out of the areas from downtown toward Troost Avenue. 

Javaid said she wants to get a place close to her son's job for the sake of his future. 

"For me, I don't see anything. The only thing that's keeping me from giving up is him," Javaid said.