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Volunteers and donations needed at Bartle Hall warming center, how to help

More people expected ahead of freezing temps
Scott Eicke Warming Center
Warming center at Bartle Hall
Posted at 5:05 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 18:23:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With freezing temperatures coming, more people are expected to show up at the Scott Eicke Warming Center inside Bartle Hall needing a safe place to sleep.

Organizers say they need people to volunteer and to provide the guests with some love and comfort.

"We need people. It's more-so easy work because, really, you're just going to be making friends," Sheryl Ferguson said.

Organizers say for this to be a real turning point in the way the city helps people experiencing homelessness, it must be more than just a place to sleep.

The guests arrive at 6 p.m. and have to leave at 8 a.m. the next day. Many still don't have anywhere to go.

"We need social workers. We need resources for them to get guaranteed jobs," Troy Robertson, organizer, said. "We're in here putting together programs to get them the hope and drive for opportunities coming. We need people to come in here from the DMV to give them ways to getting their ID."

Robertson said the center is large enough for social services and agencies to set up on-site.

"With this being temporary, I feel like our job as us being different is to get them on their feet so when it's time to leave, everybody got something to go to," Robertson said.

Ferguson suggested a suite on the first floor of Bartle Hall could be turned into a remote city office that could also connect people to services.

About 150 to 170 people have sought temporary refuge inside the warming center every night for about a week now.

Ferguson said they can expand to more people if needed.

"They have had trauma upon trauma upon trauma," Ferguson said.

Ferguson and Robertson said many of these people have had negative experiences in life and with the city, including being kicked out of their camps and feeling unsupported.

Ferguson said this trauma connects back to why the warming center is named after Scott Eicke, a man who died of hypothermia in the snow on New Year's Day.

Outreach groups expressed concerns that Eicke's camp had been swept some time before he died. Ferguson said camp sweeps are killing people.

The goal is to help people heal.

"We have to create a better culture in this country. And 2020, I think, has proved to us that eyes are open. 2021 needs to prove that we will change it," Ferguson said.

A city spokesperson said the center is the largest warming center in the region.

The city now provides two meals a day through Aramark, the company that already provided catering for the convention center.

"We have to work hand-in-hand with the security team we've always had in place, as well as the community volunteers who can help make sure they're getting services they need," Chris Hernandez, spokesperson for KCMO, said. "Do they need counseling? Do they need food right away?"

The center is scheduled to stay open through the end of March.

Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs, led by Anton Washington, is in charge of the project along with the city.

People wanting to volunteer can find an open time slot at the sign-up sheet here.

Volunteers are also organizing to pool donations at the Houseless Donation Community Facebook page.

Right now, the center needs donations such as large men's clothing.