homelessness | KCUR

homelessness

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

A proposal aimed at reducing panhandling on city streets has hit a nerve in Kansas City, Missouri, so city officials are taking a step back and plan to rework it. 

On Thursday, more than 70 people packed a room at City Hall to testify both in support and against the measure. Proponents argue panhandling has gotten out of control in their neighborhoods, while opponents say the measure would punish homeless people.  

Man in dirty jeans, a t-shirt and ball cap walking along a concrete median holding a cardboard sign out to cars along the road.
Hanlly Sam / The Accent / Flickr - CC

Segment 1: A proposed ordinance would limit the amount of time pedestrians could spend in crosswalks and traffic islands.

File photo / KCUR 89.3

A proposed pedestrian safety ordinance would have implications for individuals panhandling at Kansas City intersections. 

Councilperson Teresa Loar introduced the measure Thursday. It outlines new rules to increase pedestrian safety at intersections and crosswalks, reducing the amount of time permitted to cross, and limiting the roadside space permitted for walking.

Sharon Rodriguez

“I thought it was a Boy Scout weekend.”

That was photographer Sharon Rodriguez’s initial reaction when she encountered a homeless camp near her Olathe residence in 2014.

Once she realized that homeless individuals were living under the tarps, Rodriguez had a lot of questions.

“Who are they, and why are they homeless?” she remembers thinking. “That started the journey of me finding out more.”

Jessica Smith seated in front of a microphone in the KCUR studio.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: How local activists are reducing student homelessness on the Kansas side of the metro.

Over the last several years a coalition of social services groups in Kansas City, Kansas, operating under the banner Impact Wednesday, have been working to cut in half the number of homeless students in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. Today, we heard how the district is collaborating with Impact Wednesday and volunteer teachers to reach zero homelessness among students by 2020. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

If you can imagine Las Vegas, a county fair and the TV show Hee Haw mashed up and spread out along an old Ozark highway, then you’ll have an idea of what the main strip of Branson in southern Missouri looks like.

Miles and miles of all the miniature golf, bumper cars, fudge shops, custard stands and music theaters that a vacationing family could hope for. 

Shannon works as a waitress in one of those places – a Branson restaurant – and says she loves being part of the action. 

Segment 1: A ride-along with the police through homeless camps touched a nerve on social media.

Around the end of April, police officers and social service workers went searching for homeless camps in Kansas City's Northeast neighborhood. This "sweep out" of the camps elicited strong conflicting feelings. A journalist who went on a ride-along with the police on that day shares his perspective.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s most vulnerable students often fall behind when their families move often. And when the kids don’t meet the state’s expectations on standardized tests, their school district gets dinged. That makes it hard for districts with a lot of student turnover to improve their standing.

Scraps KC Executive Director Brenda Mott with Cracker, a homeless volunteer.
Tom Taylor / KCUR 89.3

Scraps KC is a place to let go of your unwanted materials, inspire creativity and a refuge for the homeless from the streets.

Down in Kansas City's West Bottoms, Scraps has been open for 13 months. Executive Director Brenda Mott calls it a creative reuse center. It's like a thrift store targeted at crafters.

Mitch Bennett / Flickr -- CC

Meet a young musician who's starting to make a name for herself in Kansas City ... and who is putting some of her success towards helping the city's homeless.

Then: how often do you think about the trees in our area? Since the 1940s, an organization called American Forests has been tracking the oldest and largest trees in the country — champion trees. We hear about the champion trees near us, along with the beloved trees in and around KC.

A photographer discusses her new book about homelessness in Johnson County, and a comics artist shares his thoughts on the trials and tribulations of the creative process.

Plus: an encore presentation our award-winning piece about a man who learns how to hear again after years of deafness.

Guests:

According to national statistics, when rent goes up, so does the number of evictions. What does this look like locally? From 2000 to 2015, Kansas City saw an average of 27 evictions per day. As part of an ongoing conversation about Kansas City's changing rental market, we discuss the causes and consequences of eviction.

Guests:

Fibonacci Blue / Flickr - CC

From the Standing Rock protests to the European migrant crisis, we explore the stories of faith and values that made headlines in the last year. Then, we meet a community activist who has spent decades working on behalf of urban neighborhoods in Kansas City.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police Department recently made changes in how it approaches community policing. In a controversial decision, Chief Darryl Forte recently dissolved the position of community interaction officer, in favor of having all officers considered community cops.

Some people in high crime areas say they've seen a benefit from having the same officer show up at neighborhood meetings and deal with their specific needs. And this story of an officer and a homeless woman with a felony drug conviction points to the successes of the recently abandoned program.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City nonprofit that helps connect homeless veterans with housing and jobs held a “stand down” Friday outside the World War I Museum and Memorial.

“We have an extraordinarily high homeless population,” says Art Fillmore, founder and co-chairman of Heart of America Stand Down. “A couple of years ago, it was up to around 1,700 homeless veterans.”

Fillmore says while city and county leaders have been proactive in addressing homelessness, that number is mostly going down as Vietnam veterans die.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

In Kansas City, hundreds of military veterans live without a house, apartment or even a permanent shelter to call home. Many have mental scars that make living in normal society difficult.

But three entrepreneurial veterans are trying to build a solution on a sloping field of grass and trees just east of 89th and Troost in Kansas City.

“We’re looking at four wonderful acres,” says Kevin Jamison, squinting into the sun. “Because it’s not the land, it’s what’s going to be done with the land.”

Eighteen months ago, the first phase of St. Michael's Veterans Center was just opening on Chelsea Street in Kansas City, Missouri. Now the center is expanding and inching closer to its goal of zero homeless veterans in Kansas City.

Guests:

  • Art Fillmore is an attorney with AEGIS Professional Services and a member of the board of St. Michael's Veterans Center.
  • Eric Verzola is the executive director of St. Michael’s Veterans Center.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Volunteers began gathering early Monday morning at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. 

They braved icy roads and single-digit temperatures but none doubted the reason they were there. 

"This is one of the biggest celebrations of the year," said Frank Lavender, a lead organizer for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Motorcade/March for Hunger. "It gives us the opportunity to make the community aware of the all the people who need food. We use this day to get the word out."

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

When alcoholism and addiction landed Bryan Hicks on the streets, it wasn't a spiritual epiphany that sent him searching for help. It was the realization that if he didn't get help, he was going to die.

In those days, his view of Kansas City consisted mostly of cracks in the sidewalks because his head was always hung low, looking for change, a discarded piece of pizza or half a beer left behind by a Westport reveler. Occasional hospital stays felt like spa getaways.

He'd been having seizures. He'd started coughing up blood.

Valerie Everett / Flickr-CC

In 2011, Kansas City reported less than half a percent of its population as homeless. Though this may seem like a small sliver of the population, the U.S. has the largest population of homeless children and women in the industrialized world.

 

Within the next year, 1.6 million children will experience homelessness in America.

 

It’s numbers like these that prompted the national Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to approach Congress in 2008 to find a solution to effectively end the housing crisis for homeless families in America.

Fighting Homelessness

Jul 31, 2015

The first-ever large-scale study on homelessness shows that permanent, stable housing can be more cost-effective than shelters. Kansas City is one of 12 communities included in the three-year study, which has just reached its halfway point. 

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR

An emotional Barbara Nelson thanked Jackson County officials and neighbors Wednesday for the home she now owns.

“I’m going to walk in that grass today without my shoes,” she declared through her tears after receiving a clear title to the house she and her daughters moved into six years ago.

Nelson, once homeless, was the first recipient of a completely renovated house through Jackson County’s Constructing Futures initiative. The program provides on-the-job training to people who were incarcerated as they work to fix up a vacant house.

Cody Newill / KCUR

New figures from the U.S. Department of Education show that homelessness among American students has sky-rocketed by 58 percent in the past five years.

While the problem is at its worst in urban school districts the government data reveals that, for the first time, rural and suburban school districts are dealing with homelessness on a large scale. 

There are now an estimated 1.3 million homeless students in this country.

Kansas City Ordinance On Food For Homeless Fails

Jun 13, 2014
درفش کاویانی / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas City's city council turned down an ordinance regulating the distribution of food to the homeless Thursday after it was opposed by social services organizations, including the Salvation Army.

A frustrated Councilman Scott Wagner insisted throughout the debate that the ordinance he spent a year putting together was simply what it appeared to be on the surface – a matter of food safety and sanitation.

But colleague Ed Ford said the discussions that began the process may have doomed the ordinance before it was written.

A number of organizations that help feed the homeless were heard but not heeded Wednesday as a city council committee revisited an ordinance requiring setting standards for charitable food sharing.

The plan would require all individuals and organizations providing food for the homeless to have a city food sharing permit, that all food preparation areas meet city standards. The organizations would be responsible for trash disposal and other sanitation matters.

The pleas of the two dozen people who spoke against the food sharing permit ordinance were often impassioned.

Photo Credit Creative Commons

The Salvation Army of Johnson County has expanded and improved its facilities for the homeless. Their existing shelter is 60-years-old and does not meet the needs of the county, which is the fastest growing county in Kansas.

The chapter's Major Mark Martsolf says the county wanted to provide a more dignified environment while the growing number of homeless families are trying to get back on their feet. He says the new Olathe facility will upgrade broken amenities and fixtures, as well as add square footage.

Bill Krejci

At the end of each year, lots of people look back and take stock. But no one has a 2013 story to tell quite like Billy Ray Harris.

Harris went from panhandling on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., to being a national media sensation after he returned a lost engagement ring that was accidentally dropped in his panhandling cup.

Inspired by Harris’s actions, people from around the world donated money to Harris to help him change his life. Now that things have calmed down a bit, Billy Ray Harris looks back on the year with gratitude and a little bafflement.

rDanie Alexande / KCUR-FM

When we first met Patricia (Trisha) Porsche, she was working her way out of homelessness for the second time. Back in February she was just several weeks into her residency at Freedom House, a transitional home for women run by the True Light Family Resource Center in Kansas City, Mo.

That residency is for only one year and for Trisha that year ends in December.  She talks with Steve Kraske about how her job search led her to a very familiar place and where she will be in 2014.

Changing Lives, One Step At A Time

Aug 15, 2013
backonmyfeet.org

Exercise is generally supposed to make you feel better, but one running club effort is aiming a little bit higher. 

In the second part of Thursday's Up to Date, we take a look at how Anne Mahlum's Back On My Feet running clubs for homeless people are changing the way we look at those who live on the street and how they see themselves.

rDanie Alexande / KCUR-FM

The last time Patricia Porsche was with us we learned why she became homeless by choice.  When we left off Trish had just worked her way back to being employed and out of a women's shelter.  Today we hear the rest of her story.

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