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Kansas City, Missouri, adopts ordinance aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness

KCMO city council passes ordinance for homeless crisis
Posted at 4:43 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 23:31:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday that aims to help people experiencing homelessness.

The measure allocates $2.5 million to increase beds and services at shelters, as well to allow private entities to contract with the city to help those without a home.

"A couple of weeks of delay can mean life or death for individuals who are out," Councilmember Ryana Parks-Shaw, who represents KCMO's fifth district, said.

On Wednesday, Shelter KC, which provides food and shelter to people in need, reported they were seeing an increase in residents showing up at the center for help.

Those who went to Shelter KC had most recently been housed in area hotels as part of an initiative that ended last week. The ordinance also allows KCMO City Manager Brian Platt to request proposals to assess vacant properties in the city, which would then be converted into low-income housing for people experiencing homelessness.

It also would include wraparound services. Initially, these were two separate ordinances.

However, on Thursday, city officials combined them for same-day adoption.

"I have no illusion that this will solve the homelessness issues in this country or this city, or even a single area of the city," Councilmember Dan Fowler, who represents the second district, said. "But it gives us the opportunity to find some additional tools."

The push to address homelessness in KCMO began in January, after Scott "6ixx" Eicke, who was experiencing homelessness, died in dangerous temperatures.

Since then, there has been back-and-forth debate between those in need and city officials to address the issues of homelessness in the city.

"They've got vacant houses and schools all over the city, and I see they don't have no problem making places to live, they're making lofts everywhere," a friend of a homeless individual staying at Penn Valley Park said. "I mean, they don't have no problem for people who got money and want to live there."

There were fewer tents at the camp the houseless set up at Penn Valley Park Thursday after those staying in the area were told by the Parks department Wednesday night they should find safer shelter ahead of the heat advisory.

The group arrived Sunday after their camp in Westport got swept.

"All of us want to make sure that somebody has a safe place to sleep," KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas said. "I think it is fair to say that in some of these encampments, that's not a safe place to sleep if you're in the middle of dangerous intersections, or any number of other areas. But usually it is a complaint-based system that comes from the public, asking us to make sure that we're enforcing the ordinances that the city has."

The city believes this latest ordinance gives the houseless who stayed in hotels for 90 days but ended up back on the streets another chance.

"Not everyone was either able to take advantage of those opportunities, or some elected not to avail themselves of those opportunities," Lucas said. "What that says now is that we are not giving up on those folks either."

A spokesperson told KSHB 41 News that city staff is ready to move forward quickly on the search to look for properties that could be using for housing.

They've already written up the paperwork and now just need to finalize a few details.