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Kansas City, Missouri, considers tiny-palette home village to address homelessness

Ordinance raises concern from some council members
KCMO homelessness camp city hall
Posted at 10:49 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 06:38:50-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Kansas City, Missouri, more than $8 million to address the city's houseless situation.

Over the past several months, the city has found unique ways, such as a warming station at Bartle Hall and renting out rooms for 90-days in hotels and motels, to house those experiencing homelessness in the city.

During Wednesday's Special Committee on Housing Policy, council members received an update on the hotel-lodging program. LOTUS Hospitality, which the city chose to help administer the hotels and motel to house those who need help, said so far they've helped 344 people. Ten of those people found permanent housing, and 46 found part-time or full-time employment.

Tamika Roberson is one person who experienced homelessness but found relief through the program.

"The hotel program is helping us not have to be outside in detrimental weather and that is a great thing," Roberson said.

Council members on the committee also approved on Wednesday an additional $2.7 million from the unappropriated fund balance of the general fund to go toward the program.

But the original 90-day contract is ending soon, and the city is looking to other ventures like a tiny-home pallet village called Verge.

It can house up to 200 people experiencing homelessness in little shelters. The proposed ordinance is a $2.7 million proposal for the tiny home village.

Last Wednesday, the KCMO Housing Policy Committee endorsed a contract with the nonprofit Merging KC to build 140 pallet homes.

"The palette house gives people a sense of their own things, each one gets their own little one," Jennifer McCartney, with KC Heroes and a leader for Verge.

But where this village will be located is causing some concerns. Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said in a letter to constituents that she was concerned about the ordinance stating the village could be on any city-owned or leased property, which city staff pick and does not include council oversight or an appeals process.

shields letter.jpeg

Other council members felt the same way.

"If not concerned, at least curious about where the pallet home project will be," Councilman Dan Fowler said. "Yeah, I think neighborhoods have the right to be concerned."

McCartney said she understands Shields' concerns.

"I don’t think it should be a one person, I think it should be collaborative," McCartney said.

If the village zoning ordinance is approved, it could be built quickly. The council also is discussing a zoning ordinance that would require a 30-day notice to the homeowners in the area the village would go up in.

The city council meets at 3 p.m. Thursday at the council chambers on the 26th floor.