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Shelter KC: Solving homelessness about more than housing

City introduces new measures to help houseless
homeless hotels
Posted at 12:15 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 16:12:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On July 15, around 400 people in Kansas City, Missouri, had to seek out new shelter.

An initiative which provided hotel rooms to people experiencing homelessness ended, leaving many to transition to living elsewhere — at a shelter, maybe with friends, in parks or even back on the street.

Shelter KC provides food, shelter, case management, a recovery program, job and life skills training and more to people in need.

Wednesday, the shelter said it’s expanded its bed capacity in anticipation of an influx of people turned out from the hotels.

Many people who were part of the program are beginning to seek help from the shelter, it said.

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While it’s the mission of Shelter KC to help those in need, they said “getting people out of sight and out of mind doesn’t address the issues that caused their homelessness.”

Instead, the focus should be on mental health, addictions and reentry.

“Those coming to Shelter KC need more than beds or a meal,” said Eric Burger, executive director of Shelter KC. “They need to get sober, to stabilize their lives, to get education and job skills. They need the support to put them back on track to address the serious issues that dominate their lives.”

The influx of people from the program means Shelter KC needs more food, donations and volunteers to help everyone.

Meanwhile, the city is still working on a solution for people who are homeless after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave KCMO $8 million to address the issue.

After a warming center at Bartle Hall and the hotel initiative, the city is now considering a tiny home pallet village called Verge.

The city would partner with nonprofit Merging KC to build 140 temporary homes with around 200 beds, though the location is still being debated.

Some argue the village would need to be on city-owned or leased land and nearby homeowners would need to be notified 30 days in advance.

The city partnered with Lotus Care House in a $3 million contract to provide services to people being housed in the hotels.

Lotus and other volunteers were able to help people apply for and enter housing programs, employment and medical care.

It’s unclear if the Verge village is approved by the city council what social services, if any, might be provided to those living there.

Verge is still being discussed by committee members before it heads to a full council vote.

Wednesday, two new measures to help those without a home were introduced.

Under the first resolution, the city will hire a consultant to assess vacant or under-used properties to be converted to housing for people who are homeless or who qualify as low-income.

The second measure calls for the city to use $2.7 million from its unappropriated general fund to help existing shelters and organizations increase their bed capacity and other health and social services. Of that, $200,000 is set aside for a down payment on the Verge project.

All three measures were held until Aug. 4.