Council members learn about ways to better serve area homeless

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
August 6, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Area homeless organizations are working to better improve the care they offer to those in need. However, it’s not through the amenities offered, but through the data systems used.

At last week’s Business Session meeting, Jason Bohn, systems change coordinator for Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City, gave a presentation about the work being done by the task force to combat homelessness in and around Kansas City, Mo.

The Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City, which is made up of local government officials and service providers, is an advocacy, information sharing, coordination and program development organization devoted to preventing and solving homelessness in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.

Currently, 2,500 youth in the Kansas City, Mo., region are considered homeless, one of eight homeless adults is a veteran and over a quarter of homeless families in the United States are homeless because of domestic violence.

Bohn explained that the task force is working toward a regional unified system of services to not only better serve individuals and families, but to enhance communication between service providers, as well. Bohn talked about the housing options individuals face, diversion and prevention methods used and explained the housing triage to the council members in attendance.

“The housing triage would allow us to send the right person to the right place instead of us sending them to a place that can’t serve their needs,” Bohn said. “Eighty percent of those in crisis don’t actually need housing. We’re not trying to blow someone off, just connect them to the right resources.”

Bohn also mentioned the common assessment tool that should be more widely used between area agencies. The tool would allow for a more efficient use of resources between interagency access for support. Bohn pointed out that a coordinated effort between organizations such as ReStart and the Truman Medical Facility would make the system easier to navigate by leveraging the strengths of individual service providers. Improving the data infrastructure, he continued, would allow all the agencies to communicate better. Right not, someone could walk into one organization, then walk into a different organization for help the following week and would have to provide all new information.

“We want the ability to have a system that crosses city, county and state lines,” Bohn said.

After his presentation, Mayor Sly James asked Bohn what would be needed to implement a new system like the one he described. Bohn replied that although there is already a system in place with a sustainable funding mechanism, it might be easier to start from scratch than to change the system completely.

“However, starting from scratch wouldn’t be easier on the population that needs the help,” Bohn said.

Following Bohn’s presentation, Scott Wagner, First District At-Large representative, told the council he and Bohn are working together to host this presentation in other area cities before governing bodies. The work of the Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City is supported through generous donations from: John W. and Effie E. Speas Memorial Trust, Bank of America, Trustee Hall Family Foundation, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, H&R Block Foundation and the William T. Kemper Foundation.

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