By: Autumn Garrett
Due to the serious housing crisis growing throughout Kansas City, Mo., and Jackson County, County Executive Frank White Jr. is recommending the immediate appropriation of $500,000 from the County’s Homeless Assistance Fund.
The Homeless Assistance Fund is administered by the Jackson County Housing Resources Commission and provides financial assistance to agencies that serve the homeless.
According to state law, agencies eligible to receive funds are those that provide emergency, short- and long-term shelter, assist with prevention of residential foreclosures and evictions, coordinate existing community services, facilitate projects to encourage self-sufficiency of participants and transition from dependency on subsidized housing.
The County Executive’s proposal was originally included in his proposed 2022 budget, but could not go into effect until at least January 1, 2022. However, if the County Legislature were to approve the proposal, the proposed funding could be made available to local nonprofits weeks, if not months, sooner.
White believes that this proposal is necessary to help the community and approaches the proposal as a responsibility that needs to be done now.
“Extreme weather conditions are upon us and we don’t have any time to waste if we want to protect some of our most vulnerable residents,” White said. “Former First Lady Eleanor Rosevelt once said, ‘Government exists for one purpose – to make things better for all people,’ and I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to provide a lifeline during these uncertain times. With the Legislature approval of this funding proposal, we can reduce the risk of homeless persons finding themselves in a dangerous, life-threatening situation.”
Jackson County First District Legislator Scott Burnett agrees, he spoke of the funds for the County’s Homeless Assistance Fund and what they could do to help in terms of passing the proposal.
“Instead of letting this money sit in the bank, let’s get it to the agencies in our community who are willing to support the homeless but need the financial assistance to do so,” Burnett said. “The County has the resources to help agencies provide immediate relief to those without warm and safe shelter before the weather gets bad. I understand this amount of funding is not enough to solve the problem, but it provides a starting point as we continue our work to find long-term solutions.”
White’s proposal could also provide support for ongoing efforts throughout the County, including Kansas City’s Homeless Task Force, which is working to provide safe and warm housing for the homeless during the winter.
“Kansas City’s Homeless Task Force is working collaboratively with key stakeholders on developing successful outcomes such as an Extreme Weather Activation Plan,” said Kansas City Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, Chairwoman of Kansas City’s Homeless Task Force. “Collaborative efforts like this are critical to establishing long-term solutions for those experiencing houselessness. There is more work to do. We look forward to collaborating with Jackson County on this important work.”
The County is currently seeking proposals from qualified agencies to provide homeless services. Those proposals are due no later than 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
More information on how those agencies can submit a proposal can be found at https://jccweb.jacksongov.org/VendorRegistration/bids/76-21%20Homeless%20Services.pdf.