KANSAS CITY, Mo — Shelter KC is already seeing an overflow of clients. With the potential of the season’s first snowfall, the shelter is expecting for their empty beds in their living quarters to be completely packed by 6 p.m..
“When we just go from our car to your work, you don’t realize what cold is — when you spend the night in that cold… So to be in a warm place, be in safe place, to also not have to sleep with your eye open thinking someone is going to come into your tent to steal your shoes — that is rest,” said Shelter KC’s Executive Director Eric Burger.
Shelter KC, who serves about 300 meals a day, predicts an even higher number of newcomers this winter. They say it is the consequence of a hard year — a rise in evictions, job loss and an on-going mental health crisis.
About 75 percent of their daily intakes are first-timers.
“It’s not really the homeless population is increasing, but people who are in severe crisis are the ones that are increasing,” said Burger. “People who are homeless used to only be homeless for only two to three weeks at a time, get a job and out of homelessness. Now you have people who have been homeless three or four years, and I think that length is really the increase.”
Berger says one silver lining of winter weather is that certain people will come in for help when they otherwise would not. It is a chance for relationship and trust-building that can lead to long-term rehabilitation.
“And if you have that, then we can work with you in other areas of your life,” said Burger.
Anthony Cox found community at Shelter KC after being evicted from his home and living on the streets. He says a bed and a meal means everything to those who walk in without anything.
“Some people come here and they are so hungry they’re asking others for… ‘Are you not gonna eat that?’ They’ll eat right off someone’s plate. I mean they’ve been out there for a minute and it’s cold, they’re hungry, and it’s wet. They’re tired,” said Cox.
A few miles away, Nourish KC’s community kitchen serves about 500 meals per day. During a cold front, they see an uptick of an additional 100-200 meals.
“When you are struggling, sometimes that can make all the difference in the course of your day,” said Executive Director Sue Fenske.
Fenske says having a nutritious meal leads to better immune systems. It is vital in helping combat illnesses for the houseless.
“If you don’t pay your mortgage, you lose your house. If you dont pay your utilities, you can’t turn the lights on. People notice that — right? If you can’t put food on the table, people dont see that. So that’s generally the place where people cut first,” said Fenske. “There is no shame in asking for help, and right here, there is no question."