By Abby Hoover
On Friday, Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus hosted a vigil honoring the lives of two unhoused neighbors, Marcia Boring and Eugene Shaw, who were murdered on May 6 near Second and Lydia.
The service was attended by Hope Faith clients, family of the victims, and those interested in decreasing violence in the homeless population.
Hope Faith, at 705 Virginia Ave., organized a memorial balloon release at the request of Boring’s family, taking care to use environmentally safe balloons.
Outreach teams have been active in the camp, near the train tracks in Columbus Park, where they died. Boring’s daughter and granddaughter receive services at Hope Faith, and the organization has been in contact and is reaching out to them with care.
Hope Faith Executive Director Doug Langner made a call to stop the violence and shed light on the safety concerns of the homeless population. He asked community leaders to not forget the lives of Boring and Shaw.
“This has become an all too common thing in our community, not just amongst people who are houseless, homeless, but all throughout our community, and it’s a time to come together to remember two special people, Marsha and Eugene,” Langner said. “The way Marsha and Eugene died is not okay. They were murdered and their blood cries out for justice. Truly, this is a tragedy and we hope in the coming days that there will be justice for this crime.”
Langner, who has been at Hope Faith for four months, wishes he could tell Boring and Shaw he’s sorry for the way their lives ended, and that they won’t be forgotten.
“This truly is a community with our homeless houseless people, guests, friends, people we care for,” Langner said to his clients. “Your community is strong, even though it’s been tested and continues to be tested. You’re here. We see you. We love you, and we’re behind you.”
For those that know and love the victims, Langner understands they are hurting and may be angry, frustrated and scared. He asked them not to let those strong emotions turn into violence, even though violent actions have been taken against them.
“The last few days, I’ve seen some things though, that your community has rallied around each other,” Langner said. “I have seen some positive forces that show why you are such a value to our community here in Kansas City and on the streets at Seventh and Virginia. Keep that up. Too often fears can break us down. Disappointments can break us down. All of us bear responsibility that your community has been broken down, but your community is not broken. Your community wants to rise up to something better, and we as a community need to support you and stop forgetting you.”
He encouraged Boring’s family not to lose hope, and reminded them that Hope Faith is there for them, sharing in their broken hearts.
“We can’t change what happened last Friday, but we can change what happens going forward from here on,” Langner said. “Hope does not disappoint because the endurance that I have learned from so many of the guests we serve, so many of our homeless people that are often forgotten, most people would crumble in a day in their shoes. Your endurance builds proven character and it needs to instill in us who have a home to go to, to not just lock the door and be done with it for the night.”
He challenged the housed people in attendance – whether as police, lawmakers or neighborhood leaders – to think what their act can be to help their houseless neighbors.
“We live in this society that claims to follow God, but all too often we want to push things that are an inconvenience to us to the side,” Langner said. “Family and friends, I see the deep goodness in you, the deep goodness in Marcia and Eugene, the stories that I’ve heard. Even though this great tragedy happened, we have some people here that can do things.”
He asked those with the power to make change, “Can we not, for the 3,000 homeless that walked the streets of Kansas City each night, can we not find a solution for them?”
He thanked the policy makers who attended the vigil, and asked them to keep fighting.
“We need to create support for those who are most vulnerable in our communities, and let’s let the memory of Marcia and Eugene not be forgotten in that fight, because a fight it is,” Langner said. “You don’t have to come down to Seventh and Virginia every day, but you do have to ask yourself, ‘How can I get involved? How can I make sure that my neighbor who I see driving by in my car at a corner needing help is not forgotten?’”
As of May 16, 2022, 59 Kansas Citians have been murdered. He asked his clients in attendance to say something if they see something suspicious, or come forward with information that may help solve Boring and Shaw’s cases.
“Marsha and Eugene, you are members of our community and you deserve not to be forgotten,” Langner said. “Marsha, as the family was telling me, was sweet, she was a happy-go-lucky person. She would give the shirt off her back to someone that needed it. Someone on Facebook said I will love her forever. Even when she always spoke up. She spoke up for you. For her love of you and for the love of this community that she was a part of. Let’s not forget that.”
He said her life has enriched the work they do at Hope Faith, and her spirit remains in her beautiful daughter and grandchild, and in all of the people she touched with her life.
Langner thanked the staff of Hope Faith for their tireless work, despite the burden they carry.
Jackson County First District Legislator Scott Burnett attended the vigil in support of his good friend Langner.
“I’ve supported this organization mentally and financially – my mother died last year and so I gave him $2,000 of my mother’s money, she would have a fit,” Burnett said. “The county just funded them, as well. They do good work.”
Neighborhood leaders and homeless advocates have questioned whether any of the recent deaths of unhoused people have been solved.
“The issues with the houseless population in Kansas City have been growing and have been a concern,” said Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) Major Scott Simons, who heads Central Patrol. “The City’s created a task force for it, to look at those issues, and they’re working on trying to come up with some solutions. The police department’s been at the table as well, trying to help and offer some solutions, and trying to deal with the circumstances the best that we can.”
Unfortunately violence seems to be commonplace when it shouldn’t be, Simons said, adding that KCPD will continue to try to work with all the individuals, whether they’re houseless or in the neighborhoods, to find whatever solutions will work. The murders of transient people are harder to solve for a number of reasons, Simons said.
“Part of it is some of the locations where we don’t necessarily have the technology,” Simons said. “A lot of the population is transient, so when they suffer a traumatic event, like they witness something of that nature, they have a tendency to flee. Whether they flee the area completely or just flee the immediate area makes it harder for us to track them down. In many instances, individuals that are houseless have already felt like parts of society have already failed them, so it’s hard for them to have trust in the other parts of society that are going to help bring the resolution.”
He said to his knowledge, the recent murders of unhoused people in and around Northeast and downtown are not connected.
“I think, unfortunately, in society that we’re seeing across the nation, we have lost some grace and we don’t have a tendency to give people a little extra forgiveness,” Simons said. “We’re too quick to anger, it seems like to me. I don’t know if that’s the same instance for the houseless and everywhere else, but we got to be more forgiving of each other and some things that are said or taken one way really weren’t meant that way.”
Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus at 705 Virginia is the only daytime homeless shelter in Kansas City, Mo., providing basic necessities, assistance, critical services and programs to empower individuals experiencing homelessness and at-risk individuals to become self-sufficient and independent. Guest hours are Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn more about their services at www.hopefaith.org.