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Homelessness advocates say KCMO's temporary storage program is successful 1 year after launch

Posted at 9:11 PM, Mar 14, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We all have things we don’t want to lose, but if you don’t have a safe place to keep them, what do you do?

It's a choice people experiencing homelessness in Kansas City constantly face.

One year ago, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, tried to make it less of a burden by funding a program of storage units.

Nearly 70 personal storage units called "Heart Carts" are filled and kept locked at Hope Faith.

“This program will provide a dignified way in which individuals can seek out services like doctor visits, document services, even housing referral, without the constant fear that they will leave their possessions unattended," a KCMO spokesperson said in January 2022.

Doug Langner, executive director at Hope Faith, said 148 people have used the Heart Carts in a one-year time span.

“I think it’s a win for KC, it keeps less stuff on the street,” he said.

Langner says the carts have been in high demand since the launch of the program.

David Kitchell, who is experiencing homelessness, says the main reason is safety.

“I had a lot of stuff stolen," Kitchell said. "My good stuff — my kids pictures and stuff like that."

Andre Murray, who is also experiencing homelessness, talked about how the Heart Carts have kept his belongings safe too.

“My ID, birth certificate, social security card, those lockers are very vital in here, very vital,” Murray said. “You don’t want to go to a job interview with all your personal belongings."

Langner says the carts are one tool to move people off the streets quickly.

“I asked, 'Is anyone ready to get off the streets today?'” he said. “And we had one person say, 'I’ve had enough of this.'”

Langner says people use them for about a month and a half.

“I would love it for most people to use it for a week and be done,” Langner said. “Meaning, because they have put their stuff into a shelter and into a house, it’s not a reality where we’re at — we don’t have enough houses to put people in.”

Langner says the carts add peace of mind that their things are protected and the freedom to not stay attached to them.

“It’s a small locker, but it’s enough to put my stuff in there,” Kitchell said.

Due to the success of the program, a KCMO councilwoman said it has expanded.

“The heart carts were actually successful, and we have been able to move that into and expand it,” said Ryana Parks-Shaw, a KCMO councilwoman.

The KCMO downtown council’s CID program said it will soon find a permanent place to store the carts, add more, and work with other organizations in the city.