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'I do feel progress': Mayor Quinton Lucas, homeless union inch closer to solutions

KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas and KC Homeless Union
Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 23:51:09-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Organizers of homeless camps in Kansas City, Missouri, said city leaders are working toward solutions, but nearby business owners are worried if those solutions will come fast enough.

Kyle Jensen owns Method Chiropractic across the street from the camp in Westport. When 41 Action News first spoke to Jensen a couple weeks ago about the camp, he didn't have any problems.

Now, he said he has dealt with a break in, as well as people defecating near the building and blocking the fire escape with makeshift tents.

He's worried there are no plans for the current situation.

"I didn’t have a problem with that timeline until having to deal with some of the collateral damage with the camp and the frustrations that come with it," Jensen said Wednesday.

Jensen said he and other businesses want to extend an invitation to city leaders, including Mayor Quinton Lucas, to talk about the effects on them.

But this week, Lucas has been meeting daily with people in the camps.

"I do see progress. I do feel progress. That's why I was there," James “Qadhafi” Shelby, leader of the KC Homeless Union said, "and if I didn't see it and feel it I wouldn't be back tomorrow. I don't come for the sake of coming."

The mayor is looking to introduce a resolution to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to get jobs on construction projects and at other work sites.

"Still working with developers who will exclusively offer homes for those who are at 30% of area median income, or below, that is $400 a month rent or below," Lucas said.

His office also is seeking to increase the city’s commitment to provide hotel space for at least 90 days.

"I don’t think enforcement alone is going to be your answer long term," Lucas said. "I absolutely disagree with taking such action. But what I would say is, let's actually try to make sure we're fixing the underlying problems."

Those staying at the camp are optimistic of the progress.

"I think it’s a start," Amy, who is houseless, said. "I'm just – I'm concerned of it falling off, like there being a deadline and then I'll be right back in the same boat."

She arrived at the City Hall camp after the warming center at Bartle Hall closed last month.

Unlike at the warming center, access to facilities at the camp is tough.

"It can be a little aggravating, because you get to walking around, and you're like, there's nowhere I can use a potty, you know, there's nowhere I can wash my hands," Amy said.

Organizers said there is a single port-a-potty at Ilus Davis Park for the dozens staying at the City Hall camp. They would like to see more to alleviate complaints.

"I do not believe this is sustainable," Lucas said. "I don't think this is as safe as it needs to be. But I think there's work that we need to do long term to make sure we can get to that."

There are no plans at the City Hall camp or the one in Westport to pack up and leave anytime soon.

"We can't do this forever," Qadhafi said. "But we came here as a political tactic, you know, to help effect policy and change and that's going down. I'm not claiming victory. Because nothing happened yet."

The mayor and union leaders are expected to meet again Thursday morning.