KANSAS CITY, Mo. — KSHB 41 News met James, a houseless man, at the corner of Admiral and The Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri, a few weeks ago. Immediately, he described the instability and uncertainty around his current situation.
"It makes me feel unwanted, pretty much like a second-class citizen, really," he said.
James has moved at least six times this year.
"We got displaced from another spot and were told by individuals that we'd be OK here," James said.
The dozens of people who called that campsite home were okay for a couple of months. But during the interview, James revealed that things were quickly changing.
"In this next 48 hours, or whatever we have, we have to not only pack but find a place to go," he said. "Find out how we're going to get our stuff from this site to the new site. You've got to worry about whether this new site is going to be safe and how long we're going to be there. It's just agitating. It's irritating. It's frustrating. I can use all kinds of adjectives for it."
Kansas City has made various efforts to aid in the plight of the houseless after two men died from complications of being out in the winter cold in early 2021.
First, the city worked to open up a warming shelter at Bartle Hall.
"We didn't want to just put money in Bartle Hall to pull people from a shelter provider that was already established. What we found out is that we did actually do that," Ryana Parks-Shaw, KCMO council member, told KSHB 41.
The shelter closed after three months, serving an estimated 300 people.
Next, the city launched a hotel program, offering rooms to get houseless people a stable place to stay.
"We got a lot of people off the streets for that 90 days," Parks-Shaw said. "But ultimately, that's what we did. We got people off the streets for 90 days."
It's the constant shuffling that people like James say is the problem.
But there's another constant near the corner where KSHB 41 met him — people like Bridgette Brown. She's the laundress at Hope Faith Ministries just steps away from the camp, and she too was houseless at one point.
"That gives me more insight and, obviously, more empathy for their situations. I can relate to it from when I had been homeless years ago," Brown shared.
Every Wednesday, Brown washes clothes for guests, wearing a bright smile and singing a little, too.
"Just play a part, my role, because everyone deserves dignity. That's just the way it is," Brown said.
KSHB 41 News Anchor Dia Wall asked, "Why is dignity so important?"
"I mean, dignity and respect. Don't just look down on someone for no reason if you don't know their story and how they got there," Brown said.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates 2,449 people are houseless in Kansas and 6,527 people are houseless in Missouri.
"The most heartbreaking thing is that there's a disconnect between the general public and the actual amount of people that are out there," said Chris Stout, former director of programs at Hope Faith. "It's a staggering number, and it's even more alarming to see the children, and then the elderly who really, really need some additional support out there. That, to me, just breaks my heart."
In November, the KC Houseless Task Force unveiled outreach teams dedicated to providing resources to those who choose to stay on the streets during extreme weather and allocated additional funding to help existing shelters increase capacity with staffing, when needed.
"Oftentimes everybody looks to the city. Why isn't the city doing more?" Stout said. "Really, it's the community that could step up."
The city task force now has a database to track shelter capacity and where beds are available, something Parks-Shaw said wasn't there before. Local housing providers have also offered more than 70 units to help house the houseless in Kansas City.
James has a simple request for the people in power to help him and others in a similar situation.
"I just want to be considered. That's perfect right there," James said. "Just be considered. I'm part of Kansas City, too."
Two Americas is part of a KSHB and Scripps signature issue to help introduce our community to the America you know and the America you might not know. Our role as the media is to share the news of the day, but we also seek to give a voice to people we don't hear from often.
Of course, there are many parts that make up our community, so we’re not just showing you two and we’re not pitting two sides against each other. Instead, we’re hoping to highlight solutions and showcase different perspectives to help us all better understand our area's culture, our area's past, and why our community feels the way it does today.