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Kansas City Council OKs Hotel Rooms For Three Months For Homeless And Camps Begin To Empty

Quadafi, a leader of the KC Homeless Union, delivers a speech last Thursday at City Hall, decrying the potential sweep of the homeless encampment there.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Quadafi, a leader of the KC Homeless Union, delivers a speech last Thursday at City Hall, decrying the potential sweep of the homeless encampment there.

The Kansas City Homeless Union has been camped on the lawn of City Hall since February, demanding the city give them homes, jobs, water, and a say in housing issues.

After a months-long occupation of the lawn outside City Hall, the Kansas City Council on Thursday agreed to put up as many as 500 people in hotel rooms for three months.

A unanimous vote by the council told the city manager to come up with a stop-gap plan for offering housing to the homeless with hopes of finding federal tax dollars to cover the bill.

“If you are somebody who is experiencing homelessness and you’re on the streets, we have a place for you to go,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

Lucas and Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw also introduced two other resolutions to the council that focus on long-term solutions for the homeless. One would clear the way for the city’s Land Bank to sell derelict city-owned property to nonprofits. Those organizations would then be required to renovate the properties for the homeless or low-income residents.

The second resolution would launch a study on how to find jobs for the homeless.

Kansas City Homeless Union leader James Shelby, who goes by Quadafi, said the new measures are a good first step.

“The city heard us and responded, and we’re grateful for that,” he said. “That’s not the end. That’s a first step of the beginning of resolving this issue, of eradicating it.”

The agreement between Lucas and the homeless group comes after two large homeless encampments — one 30-tent camp at the intersection of Westport Road and Southwest Trafficway, and the 50-tent camp on the south lawn of City Hall — stood for more than two months as protests calling for more help for the estimated 2,000 homeless people in the city. Leaders from the City Hall encampment said they would not leave until the city provided homes, jobs, water, and a seat at the table where decisions are made about housing.

Tensions escalated when officials threatened to arrest people camped outside City Hall and on the Westport traffic island last weekend.

The Kansas City Homeless Union and KC Tenants groups gathered at City Hall on Monday to block any sweep of the encampment.

Instead, no arrests were made and city workers hauled off trash.

Lucas, Parks-Shaw and the leaders from the protest groups met throughout the week and gave a joining press conference on Thursday.

By Thursday afternoon, some residents of the City Hall encampment were taking buses to the hotel rooms paid for by the city.

“When the city moves in our favor, there’s no need to continue to occupy if we get what we want,” Quadafi said. “Every ask that we asked, it appears that the city and the mayor is working with us and heading down those roads.”

Lukas Kenney is a news intern for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him on Twitter @kenney_lukas.
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