A new way of travel for the houseless community has hit the streets of Kansas City. Recently, nonprofit Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus launched its Hope Bus program as a way to create more direct transportation to agencies for the unhoused throughout the city.
The program started eight weeks ago and has already gained popularity among those who need transportation. Hope Faith Director of Programs Chris Stout said he estimates that more than 500 people have used the new service already.
Initially, the program began by running two different buses, a route bus and a shuttle bus. The idea and buses came from Hope Faith Executive Director Jaysen Van Sickle. Stout said Van Sickle traded a couple of his personal box trucks to other agencies in order to acquire the two buses.
The route bus holds up to 12 passengers and runs similar to a Kansas City metro bus. The bus follows a schedule starting with an 8 a.m. pick up at the Bartle Hall warming center and ends with a final drop off at Hope Faith at 2:15 p.m. In between that time, the bus stops at many agencies around the area, like Shelter KC, City Union Mission, Thelma’s Kitchen and Truman Medical Center at Hospital Hill.
The stops along the route were chosen based on what was in popular demand, Stout said. A case manager rides each bus throughout the day and collects basic information from those using the service, such as where the riders wanted to go. The final route was chosen based on the data collected during the first few weeks the program was running.
Stout said having the Hope Bus is not only allowing the homeless community to have more direct access to the agencies they need, but also connecting Hope Faith to the people it is trying to help.
“Because we have case management on the bus, as well, that allows us to serve them while they’re riding. We get to know the people we’re serving better, and find out what their needs are,” Stout said.
Case managers on the bus also ensure everyone is following COVID-19 precautions, Stout said. Before each passenger is allowed to ride, they have to be wearing face protection. Case managers check their temperature and make sure no one is showing any flu-like symptoms.
The shuttle bus is smaller, and is meant for a more individual basis. People can call Hope Faith and request to go to any location, such as a grocery store or a doctor’s appointment. The bus will pick them up from wherever they are and take them to their desired location.
“I wouldn’t call it an Uber, but it’s one of those kinds of things so they can get the services that they need to progress their situation in life,” Stout said.
Recently, Hope Faith has also gained a third bus for the program. Stout said after hearing about the Hope Bus on the news, someone donated a 26-passenger bus for the program to use. The organization currently runs this third bus as a route bus.
Stout said the third bus has particularly helped with that first pick up of the day at Bartle Hall. Before having the third bus, Hope Faith would have to make several trips to the warming center every morning due to the amount of people wanting a ride. The new bus has helped in reducing the number of trips.
Even though public transit in Kansas City is free to riders right now, Stout said this program is important because it eliminates a barrier that many do not commonly think about.
“Those of us that have our own transportation take it for granted,” Stout said. “We can get into our car and go to the pharmacy or get to our appointments. Those that don’t [have a car] have to get on a bus, maybe wait 30 or 40 minutes to take another bus, and then walk a few blocks. And, they might not even get to their appointment.”
The successes of this new program are tangible for people like Frank, someone with whom Hope Faith has been working closely. Frank waited only 15 minutes to get on the Hope Bus in order to get to the pharmacy instead of waiting two hours to get there by public transportation. By then, the pharmacy would have already been closed. Stout said it is situations like this, which make the program all the more essential.
“The idea is that our programs are here to serve [people experiencing homelessness] and where their needs need to be met, and I think that this bus program does just that,” Stout said. “We meet them where they are and we’re here to just connect them to their needs on that day.”
While Stout said the new program has been very successful, where it could really benefit from is by having more volunteers. The organization is looking not only looking for sponsors to support the program, but also a maintenance partner to help keep the buses running. Anyone interested in getting involved should contact Hope Faith Programs Coordinator Gina Hill at 816-471-HOPE (4673) to learn more.