New tenant at St. Paul School of Theology rankles neighbors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Some residents of Kansas City community are bristling tonight after word spread that a coalition that helps sexually exploited women and teens will likely takeover the campus of the St. Paul School of Theology.

KCCASE, an umbrella group which deals with recovering prostitutes and other sexually exploited people, is under contract to purchase the site of the Methodist theological school when the current owners move to Kansas at the end of August.

When residents of the Blue Valley neighborhood surrounding the campus got word of the pending ownership change, they caused "chaos" at a community meeting last Thursday, according to one attendee.

‘We were blindsided by this. We didn't know about it," explained Sherry Ashcroft, a community activist and leader of a group of neighbors now opposing the sale.

"Nearly anyone who could understand what we know about this facility was against it," Ashcroft said, describing a petition drive that began after the meeting. "And we have lots of signatures right now, and realize we only started doing that yesterday afternoon."

The opposition to the sale say they will attend a city meeting tomorrow – the first of several – at which the rezoning of the property will be discussed.

Steve Wagner, who is spearheading the KCCASE project says his group has been maligned by misinformation. He says the campus he plans will include dormitories, classes, daycare, job training and around the clock security. He disputes claims that the center will bring crime, or lower property values for residents of nearby neighborhoods.

"Crime does not follow the populations that we're serving," Wagner said. "We know this from the example of similar facilities elsewhere in the country. The worst possible outcome for the community is for the campus to be abandoned."

Ashcroft disagrees.

"I'd rather see St. Paul's boarded up, with weeds up to my shoulders," she said Monday.

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