I am not speaking as a member of the Columbus Park Community Council. This is from me, and it is, in part, a painful love letter to the spirit and integrity of the Historic Northeast.
We were misled by the city. We were told our concerns about one large low barrier shelter at 7th and Virginia would be taken seriously and there would be public engagement before the grant was awarded. Instead, this week, the mayor and city manager put forward an ordinance to give the grant to Hope Faith. They misled us about a non-congregate shelter as well (which means private rooms and bathrooms for each client). They asked for the private bathroom requirement to be waived.
They misled Councilwoman Robinson and Patterson Hazley, who have been communicative and supportive. The city squandered hours of volunteer effort from neighborhood leaders, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber, and the Kansas City University of Medicine. It was a deliberate waste of our time.
We are supportive of low barrier shelters; homelessness is everywhere and shelters need to be everywhere, tailored to the demographic of the local clientele. Other neighborhoods have asked for services and been ignored. It’s time for support to be more widely accessible and accountable.
The success of the Paseo Gateway project is key to the success of this area. We have seen tangible results with every stage. The point of the project was to bring positive business and development to balance out the services. People need hope as well as help.
There are more compassionate approaches to the tragedy of homelessness. Instead, we will continue to do what we’ve been doing for the last century. The city will tell you that, ultimately, housing is the solution, but we are not building. They make vague promises without real plans.
Please show up to the meeting on January 17th. Even if you don’t get to speak, your presence is important.
I thank every person who donated hours of their time, collaborated with their neighbors—even when it was hard—and stood together.
The Historic Northeast has all the elements of a great city: diversity, small businesses, history, architecture, culture, charities, and community. Strategic leaders would see this area as a major asset–more authentic than the Plaza, more interesting than Power and Light–and make it a priority.
We need leaders who care as much as we do.