By EMILY RITTMAN
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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV) — Kansas City’s emergency 90-day program to house nearly 400 people in hotels will end on July 15th after an extension. A city spokesperson says caseworkers have been working to get everyone placed in other housing programs by then.
Fencing now surrounds the area where the Kansas City Homeless Union previously occupied and protested outside city hall. A city spokesperson said the fencing will remain until they can repair the garage beneath the plaza. According to the spokesperson, there have been no concerns expressed about a potential collapse and the action was taken out of an abundance of caution. Some community members question the timing.
“It’s no secret that the Kansas City homeless union has been planning to return to their occupation on the front lawn as a protest about the lack of housing that’s available for people experiencing housing insecurity,” Volunteer Coordinator for the Hotel Initiative Nellie McCool
Director of Volunteer Services and Programing Anton Washington said at first, he too was skeptical of the timing but received conformation about structural issues.
“It needs to be fixed. It’s been long overdue for city hall to be able to fix this structure that is the center of our city,” Washington said.
Advocates are now focused on protecting those who are unhoused during hot summer months as they move out of their temporary hotel rooms.
“Our unhoused friends die more during the summer months than in the winter,” Washington said. “We have worked and been on the ground diligently overnight and throughout the week — 70 hours a week nonstop trying to make sure that our unhoused friends are being able to become connected to resources.”
McCool says some people are unsure of where they will live once the program ends.
“A lot of the transitional living centers and organizations, not only do they have very limited beds, but there’s extreme qualifications that a lot of people don’t qualify for,” McCool said.
That’s why those who serve people without housing hope the city can create permanent shelter with hundreds of beds. They say they’ve discussed several possible locations with city leaders to increase the number of available beds. They are asking city leaders to include people who are unhoused in discussions about long term solutions.
“It has been about talking about this community, but not talking with this community,” Coordinator of Logistics and Volunteers Janessa Riehle said. “So I think that’s the first step because we can’t make adequate change if we’re talking about a population that we do not identify with.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas says he plans to meet with representatives from Kansas City’s unhoused community. He added that while legislative solutions take time, the city continues to work on immediate housing solutions including 200 beds with area non-profits and transitional help so far for 70 families.
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