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Kansas City's homeless advocates, city leaders weigh funding for low barrier shelters

homelessness meeting council.jpg
Posted at 6:49 PM, Apr 24, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Missouri, city council committee passed a resolution Wednesday for a new Request for Proposal (or RFP) for a low barrier homeless shelter.

The resolution will go to the full city council for a vote.

“Low barrier means low-barrier, meaning anyone can come in,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Resolution 240415 also cancels RFP EV3180, which utilizes HOME American Rescue Plan Program funds (HOME-ARP) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for local homeless reduction plans.

Passing Resolution 240415 means one of the other resolutions on Wednesday’s agenda, Resolution 240046, which would provide $7,137,610 worth of funding to Hope Faith’s Homeless Assistance Campus for a non-congregate, low-barrier shelter facility using previously-appropriated HOME ARP funds, is cancelled.

Representatives, employees and supporters of Hope Faith attended Wednesday’s committee meeting with hopes Resolution 240046 would pass.

“I’ve slept outside, I’ve lost wedding rings in my sleep,” said Gloria Moody, a homeless person who now works at Hope Faith. "People don’t choose to be homeless, and in a lot of places in Kansas City, they don’t have a lot of places for women to have a place to stay and sleep."

Moody said she's been homeless for three years.

Ned Namauu also attended Wednesday's meeting.

Namauu says Hope Faith has helped him for the past eight years, aid he appreciates as someone with a felony on his criminal record.

"I tried to apply at a place for housing and I was turned down because of my background," Namauu said. "You have to ask for help if you want to better your lifestyle."

Hope Faith says their initial application for the low barrier shelter was in the summer of 2023.

They feel the delay in getting approval is intentional.

Mayor Lucas addressed those concerns at Wednesday's meeting, saying he knows it feels long, but assured attendees that's how the approval process works.

Hope Faith leaders aren't happy.

“It’s certainly disappointing, because what I’m hearing is, we’re re-opening the same thing,” said Doug Langner, Executive Director of Hope Faith.

Langer and other Hope Faith supporters were among those who spoke during the public comment period.

Langner defined a low barrier shelter as a place where people can stay if they are not putting themselves or anyone else in danger.

He said a person would not have to 'pray to stay or pay to stay' and that any gender would be welcome.

No entry program or tests, like a breathalyzer, would be required.

Jim Ferraro, one of the the Columbus Park neighborhood residents who spoke at the meeting, agreed about the need for a low barrier shelter in Kansas City.

But Ferraro and other neighborhood residents want to see multiple shelters in various neighborhoods that could cater to diverse populations like elderly or LGBTQ communities.

“Providing multiple shelters serving a diverse population with varying needs is the best answer,” Ferraro said. “People don’t choose to be homeless, and in a lot of places in Kansas City, they don’t have a lot of places for women to have a place and stay sleep.”

The new resolution means any group, including Hope Faith, has 30 days to submit an RFP to be considered for the federal funding.

“I think it’s still a quick and accelerated time frame and I expect the city council to support an investment in low barrier shelter and housing in a short amount of time to make sure that throughout the summer months and certainly as we get to next winter, we have that type of wrap-around service for everybody experiencing homelessness,” Lucas said.

But Langner argues there’s no time to waste.

“We are the worst city in the country, several years going, the worst, around housing the chronically homeless,” Langner said. “And a big reason is we don’t have a low barrier shelter.”

The National Alliance to End Homelessness defines chronic homelessness as a state where “people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly — while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.”

“We do not have a homeless shelter today if a homeless person said, ‘I’m ready to get off the streets now,’ that they can walk into and get off the streets today,” Langner said.

Update: On Thursday, the full council passed the Resolution 240415 in an 8-2 vote.