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Penn Valley Park camp for those experiencing homelessness to clear soon

Homeless Camp at Penn Valley Park
Posted at 10:10 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 23:22:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's only matter of time before the latest homeless camp at Penn Valley Park gets cleared, as proposed Kansas City, Missouri, ordinances addressing homelessness were again delayed from moving forward.

On Wednesday night, a city parks ranger kept an eye on the dozen or so tents that the houseless pitched near the Scout statue on Sunday after they were cleared out of Westport and bussed to Penn Valley Park.

It's a decision seemingly no one knows who made in the first place.

Roosevelt Lyons, interim KCMO Parks and Recreation director, told KSHB 41 News over the phone Wednesday his department didn’t authorize the encampment. He learned about it when people living nearby reached out.

Jerry Katlin, president of the Homeowners Association at One Park Place, 700 West 31st Street, said some residents are concerned about the encampment's effect on property values.

"But the majority of the residents are concerned about the nature of the safety and the location of the camps and whether they are conducive to living," Katlin said.

KSHB 41 News asked the city what's next for the camp at Penn Valley Park, who made the decision to bus those experiencing homelessness to that location and how the decision was made.

A city spokesperson sent KSHB 41 News a statement touting their efforts with partner agencies to connect the houseless with services, reminded them not to litter but ignored KSHB 41 News' direct questions:

City employees continue to work with our partner agencies to offer services and connect residents with housing options as we also ask houseless residents to not tent or litter in public right-of-way. There are multiple social service agencies that can help and beds are available in local shelters.
For next steps towards longer term solutions, city staff has offered innovative ideas such as the pallet homes village with full social services onsite. The City Council currently has three pieces of legislation before it, and city staff stands ready to take action to implement whichever programs are approved by Council.

"I think to continue to push people in different locations isn't fair," Katlin said.

KCMO Parks and Rec said they'll be enforcing city laws, including the park's operating hours of 5 a.m. to midnight to prevent the encampment at Penn Valley Park from growing.

"You know, it removes dignity, when the city comes in and bulldozes camps," Pastor Steve Neal, a volunteer helping the houseless, said.

Neal, who continues to support the group, said he feels the hotel program – a partnership that provided temporary housing for those experiencing homelessness – fell short.

"There was a lot of effort went into this 90-day thing," Neal said, "and it appeared to me that Mayor [Quinton] Lucas made a good faith effort, but I'm not for sure what happened at the end."

Those staying the camp, like Ashlea Handy, agreed with Neal.

"Everybody wants to know what's going on with the mayor and why hasn’t he showed up because we want to talk to him," Handy said.

Lyons said that in the next day or two, the city will notify those staying at the Penn Valley camp about the city laws.

They’ll ask them to relocate, give them some time to clear out and if they don't, police will most likely get called in to help them move them along.