Dorri Partain 
Assistant Editor &

Michael Bushnell

Holding signs and chanting “Housing is a right, this is why we fight!”, members of the houseless community, brought together as a Call to Action, gathered across from City Hall on Thursday, February 29, to mark the final day of the City’s winter shelter programming.

Organized by the staff of Hope Faith- Homeless Assistance Campus, which provides services at their facility located at 705 Virginia, the gathering addressed the amount of money spent on other services while an ordinance to provide funding for a new low-barrier shelter is being held in committee until April.

On behalf of Hope Faith, Executive Director Doug Langner addressed the crowd and stated the following demands:

A significant investment in solutions for our houseless population, similar to the funding allocated for animal welfare ($28 million).

Swift action on implementing Low Barrier Shelters, utilizing available Federal Funds before they are lost.

A comprehensive plan for creating 40,000 affordable housing units across the city and county.

Transparency regarding allocating and utilizing funds from Marijuana Money and Housing Trust Funds designated to address homelessness.

A meeting with Mayor Lucas to address the lack of approval for proposed solutions.

Langner concluded his remarks, addressing the clients he serves, saying, “I’m sorry, you deserve better than this. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder with you. The time to be quiet is over.”

In addition to remarks from those in homelessness situations, Rev. Mindy Figarino of Independence Boulevard Christian Church addressed attendees and encouraged them to vote, become registered voters, and make elected officials be accountable for funds not utilized to solve the homeless issue.

The Call to Action was in response to the City Council’s Finance & Governance Committee meeting on February 21 and Ordinance # 240046, that if passed, would have approved a $7,137,610 contract for an 80-bed low barrier shelter at Hope Faith Ministries. Mayor Quinton Lucas, sponsor of the ordinance, proposed a 45-day hold on the ordinance and re-visit the measure in early April. 

Since the ordinance’s introduction on January 25, the response from nearby community members has impacted its passage through council.

Evie Craig, president of the Paseo West neighborhood, responded to the Call to Action stating,“There will be no immediate shelter bed available as a result of the contract to the proposed single provider – there will be months of renovation – paid for by tax dollars – before one bed is ready. The City and providers have known for months that the cold weather shelters would cease operations under the City contract on February 29, yet no plans were made to extend these services.” 

Columbus Park Community Council President Kate Barsotti had this to say.

“When it comes to services for homelessness, unfortunately, we continue to experience lack of engagement or partnership. Columbus Park was not informed of the warming center at Garrison Community Center, the pallet homes, and now, the proposal for the city’s only low barrier shelter. We find out after plans are in motion and have no opportunity to co-create a solution. 

Do we need shelter beds? Absolutely. By ‘we,’ I mean the whole metro. There are services, but few (if any) low barrier beds from Grandview to St. Joseph. Encampments are everywhere; shelter beds must be as well, supporting the demographics in each area. South of us, for example, homelessness may strike single mothers with children the hardest. A shelter should cater to them. Many providers are doing great work with the thinnest of budgets. Over $7 million, spread out across the metro, could increase capacity in many locations.”

According to Langner, the Call to Action is another way to seek solutions. “Calling for solutions from our elected leaders does not preclude us from working with any organization or coalition to seek solutions to this solvable problem in our community,” he stated.  “We have been at several community meetings, yet as of this date, we have yet to be invited to any (Northeast) coalition meeting; we are always open to working towards solutions.”