© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Kansas City Removes Homeless Camp From Westport, Advocates Say 'They Don't Want Them Seen'

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Houseless people who were camping in Westport gather their belongings Sunday morning after being told they had to leave. They were ultimately taken to Penn Valley Park.

Following the end of a city program that allowed the unsheltered to stay in hotels for 90 days, people are once again on the move. The city’s Public Works Department said it has to ensure safety in public right-of-ways.

Kansas City Public Works officials on Sunday removed more than a dozen homeless people who were camped in a median on Westport Road, citing safety and promising further services.

The people living at “Camp Sixx,” named in honor of Scott “Sixx” Eicke, a homeless man who died on New Year’s Day, were put on a city bus by Kansas City Police and moved to Penn Valley Park.

The camp sprung up after the expiration of a temporary 90-day program that allowed the unsheltered to live in hotels. Kim Taylor was one of those who had been staying in a hotel provided by the city and she ended up at Camp Sixx.

After she got off the bus at Penn Valley, she began sorting through a large pile of food and other belongings. She was bitter about being moved and angry that the houseless from the hotels were being separated.

“Divide and conquer. That’s what they did to us at the hotel,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Talks at City Hall on how to deal with the large number of homeless people have apparently stalled. A plan that would have spent $1.7 million in tax dollars for “tiny houses” for about 200 people was delayed by city council on July 1.

Public Works Department officials arrived at various locations Sunday morning to provide trash bags and trucks to dispose of litter and trash, according to a statement released by the city. The goal was to clean up trash and to ensure safety on public streets and spaces, the statement said.

“Safety and visibility for our residents and the traveling public and cleanliness of our right-of-way remains our responsibility under City Code,” said Michael Shaw, Public Works director. “Our goal is to keep the right-of-way clean and safe.”

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Some of the houseless staying in Westport board a bus Sunday morning to be driven to Penn Valley Park.

Staff from the city's Housing and Community Development Department were also available to coordinate services, the statement said.

Kansas City Police Capt. Mike Glass said most people in the camp initially refused to leave or accept offers of shelter. He said some became argumentative and that's when police were called.

“Our goal was not to rush anybody or anything else,” Glass said. “We just want you guys to pack up and go.”

Charles Copeland, a volunteer helping people load their belongings in the bus, said the unsheltered folks started showing up at the site Friday.

Advocates for the homeless were angry about the move.

“They don’t want them out in public. They don’t want the complaints. They don’t want them seen,” said Misha Smith with the Midwest Homeless Collective.

“None of this is ideal,” she said. “The camp isn’t ideal, but there are levels of better. Camp Sixx was safe because they were so surrounded because there were witnesses.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.