This weekend: Northeast housing summit seeks solutions

Residents and city leaders are invited to take part in the Northeast Kansas City Housing Summit this week. The event, hosted by the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness (GKCCEH), will facilitate discussion towards creating sustainable solutions through collaborative efforts to provide housing for those in need. 

The Summit is a three day affair held via Zoom with attendance divided according to occupation. On Thursday, March 18, government officials and neighborhood leaders are being invited to join the discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. Then on Friday, March 19, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., nonprofits, activists, organizers and service providers will meet. Finally, everyone will meet together for one final time on Saturday, March 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

While the sessions on Thursday and Friday will be filled with different attendees, both nights will have a similar agenda and topic discussions. Some topics outlined for both days are the neighborhood perspective, the data perspective on the houseless and the importance of person-centered language and civility.

“My biggest thing was I need folks to understand why we use certain verbiage that we do,” said Patricia Hernandez, Vice President of the Indian Mound Neighborhood and event organizer. “Because in the Northeast, being unhoused means you could be couch surfing. It’s not necessarily somebody sleeping in a tent.”

Those participating in Friday’s event can also expect to not only take part in a larger conversation, but in smaller group discussions, as well. Part of the agenda is to put everyone into small groups, via breakout rooms in Zoom, in order to have more intimate discussions with one another.

“That’s when we’ll have the meat of our conversations,” Hernandez said. “That’s where we’ll connect resources with each other. Our goal is to have all of the resources, food, shelter, clothing, mental health services, medical, everything that we could think of.”

The intention is to have as much representation as possible at the Summit, Hernandez said. Not only have people from the City pledged to take part in the event, but agencies from the state as well. KC Regional Housing Alliance, Missouri Department of Housing, Missouri Department of Mental Health and Ninth District Senator Barbra Washington are just some who have committed to contributing.

In addition to these agencies, Hernandez said another voice who will be in attendance at the Summit is Anne Williamson, a former professor at University of Missouri – Kansas City who has a background in the topic of housing.

“The goal is to have legislation drawn and to try to curb folks’ missed perceptions of the unhoused, that they choose to be that way,” Hernandez said. “Most of the people that we spoke with are just in bad spots, and they don’t have the kind of support that maybe you or I have.”

The idea for this Housing Solutions Summit came about last year after Hernandez and Ingrid Burnett, State Representative for District 19, were discussing the houseless community issue in the Northeast. Burnett then brought the topic to the attention of the Executive Director at GKCCEH, Marqueia Watson.

Watson was the one who noted that while there are many organizations for the unhoused community in Northeast, none of them communicate well with one another, Hernandez said. The summit was organized in the hopes of finding solutions for the issue, and also connecting agencies better to one another.

Currently, over 100 people have registered to attend the summit in the following days. Any and all voices are welcomed to attend and can still register for the event through the GKCCEH Facebook page.

Hernandez said this event is important to everyone because the issues of the unhoused population can not be expected to be fixed by just service providers. It will take all of the Northeast work together to help solve the issue.

“We want to hear from everybody,” Hernandez said. “We want to hear what their opinions are, we want to hear what their misconceptions are and we want to hear what they might think is the solution.”

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