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Jackson County executive hopes to speed funding to address houselessness

Homelessness declining in nation's cities, but hunger is on the rise
Posted at 5:21 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 18:23:37-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. wants to speed up an appropriation to the Homeless Assistance Fund.

White has proposed $500,000 in 2022 for the fund, but will ask the Jackson County Legislature to fast track the money in hopes of making it available immediately rather than waiting until after Jan. 1, 2022.

“Extreme weather conditions are upon us and we don’t have any time to waste if we want to protect some of our most vulnerable residents,” White said in a statement announcing the proposal. “Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘government exists for one purpose – to make things better for all people,’ and I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to provide a lifeline during these uncertain times.”

He cited the regional and national affordable housing crisis and impending winter as reasons to act swiftly.

The release also included support from Jackson County Legislator Scott Burnett, who said in a statement that he’d prefer not to let “this money sit in the bank” when nonprofits gearing up to help those without homes need it now.

“The County has the resources to help agencies provide immediate relief to those without warm and safe shelter before the weather gets bad,” White said. “I understand this amount (of) funding is not enough to solve the problem, but it provides a starting point as we continue our work to find long-term solutions.”

The Jackson County Homeless Assistance Fund, which is administered by the county’s Housing Resources Commission, provides money to community agencies that work directly with people experiencing homelessness.

A request for proposals to provide services to the county’s homeless population is due by Tuesday, Dec. 14.

The agencies help provide shelter, work to stop foreclosures and evictions, coordinate with other community-service providers, oversee programs that foster self-sufficiency and strive to help people transition to non-subsidized housing.

Ultimately, White envisions pooling resources with Kansas City, Missouri, to combat the issue countywide.

“Kansas City’s Houseless Task Force is working collaboratively with key stakeholders on developing successful outcomes such as an Extreme Weather Activation Plan,” Kansas City Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, who chairs the city’s Houseless Task Force, said in a statement. “Collaborative efforts like this are critical to establishing long-term solutions for those experiencing houselessness. There is more work to do. We look forward to collaborating with Jackson County on this important work.”

Kansas City officials have been vexed while working to find solutions for homelessness after receiving more than $8 million in federal money last May.

The city council tasked City Manager Brian Platt with conducting an assessment to address “the needs of the houseless population” in late August. It’s due by the end of the year.

A “comprehensive, collaborative local strategic plan” is due by the end of February 2022.

The city announced three options for beginning to address the issue last month.