On Thursday, April 2, the Kansas City City Council unanimously approved a contract that would pay $80,000 to provide up to 30 rooms for homeless individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Mayor Lucas introduced the ordinance that was advanced for final reading during the session, citing the location for the rooms at 1409 Admiral Boulevard, the address of the Rodeway Inn.
Mayor Lucas stated that in connection with the COVID-19 crisis and challenge, a public safety need was identified for homeless individuals who are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus and continue to utilize the shelters, creating the possibility for viral spread, but who otherwise, have nowhere else to go.
“The need for that shelter requires us to provide facilities where they can be quarantined,” he stated. “The fear that if we don’t pass an ordinance like this is that either these persons who have been infected, or who are subject to quarantine, will find themselves in a situation where they’re continuing to go to a shelter, jeopardizing the health conditions of a number of others, or alternatively, remain on the streets, jeopardizing the health conditions of a number of others.”
The entity at 1409 Admiral was chosen for a number of reasons, said Mayor Lucas.
“It provides us both a good value but also one that is close to a number of shelters in our community. It’s on regular public transit lines both on Paseo and Independence Avenue and very close to a number of different social service agencies and it’s down the street from both clinics and hospitals as well,” he said.
The $80,000 would be pulled from the Health Levy savings fund and put towards the Shelter for Homeless Account.
Tammy Queen, Kansas City’s director of finance, said the Health Department “agreed this was an excellent use of those savings.”
The $80,000 covers one month of shelter for up to 30 rooms. Twenty rooms for one month cost $46,000, an additional ten rooms (if needed) for one month add additional expense, and a $10,000 security deposit put the total “just under $80,000” said Queen.
The $80,000 does not include food or other wraparound services, but Mayor Lucas said his staff is working with other agencies to provide this.
Queen said that if any of the $80,000 was not used, it could be put toward these expenses.
Lucas said the need for rooms will be assessed after the month was up.
“This is a contract for one month and so we will see next month if there is additional need beyond 30, so then we would look to update the contract accordingly for more,” he said.
Other homeless agencies across the metro are experiencing issues with providing adequate service to individuals who need care.
Shelter KC recently stated they have removed beds to ensure they are maintaining proper social distancing between individuals at their facility.
Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington stated he believes this ordinance is extremely important, highlighting his interaction with a homeless woman who was forced back to her car after testing positive for COVID-19.
“She was not allowed to stay in the hospital, so I think this is an ordinance that is extremely necessary. My only fear is that the $80,000 isn’t enough. But I do think that this is something we need to do,” he said.
The ordinance passed unanimously.