KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just two days after Chantre Russ arrived in Kansas City with her children -- a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 7-month-old -- Kansas City police were called after someone found the family sleeping in a parking garage stairwell.
Sgt. AJ Henry listened to Russ’s story. She said she came to Kansas City after her eldest child’s father was murdered in California. Russ told him she received a letter from the Housing Authority of Kansas City but was still waiting for public housing.
Henry listened to her story and then sprang into action.
He didn’t call Children’s Division, saying the family should not be split up because they had already been through enough. Instead, he called multiple shelters only to find out they were all full.
He called KCPD Social Services for help. After making more calls, Social Services discovered the closest shelter was in Topeka. That’s when they suggested officers “pass the hat.”
Henry and Officers Devin Jackson, Jacob Phillips and Ian Morris passed a hat around and came up with enough money to pay for a hotel for Russ and her three kids. Social Services started calling other agencies to help donate items the family needed: car seats, clothing, food, diapers, toys, and formula.
Agencies responded in droves: Truman Hospital, the Missouri Highway Patrol, Hope Faith, Holiday Inn, Healing Pathways, Community Assistance Council, and Sheffield Place all donated what they could to help the family.
“The one thing that I've continued to say is how every community has exactly what it needs to be successful, it's just about making the connections,” said Gina English, KCPD Social Services Supervisor.
Police said Russ has been approved for public housing and is waiting for an open unit. She told police she is grateful and amazed for the support she and her children are receiving from KCPD officers and Social Services.
She told Social Services she was thankful Henry found her when he did because she had been considering calling Children’s Division on herself.
"She just needed a support team. She just needed someone to cheer her on and remind her that she's made it this far and that she can continue to go farther, but everyone needs support and everybody needs help,” said English.
The family is now sleeping in real beds, not a stairwell, because of a community effort.