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Kansas City has a new plan for unhoused people in the cold winter months

A woman sits with her belongings near City Market Park last December just as the temperatures began a steep decline.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A woman sits with her belongings near City Market Park in December 2020 just as the temperatures began a steep decline.

The city council approved $1.3 million to increase capacity and staffing at 10 local shelters.

The Kansas City Council approved spending $1.3 million on an extreme weather plan for unhoused people in the coming winter months.

The funding comes as Kansas City temperatures are expected to drop into the 40s this weekend, and into the 20s throughout next week. The money will fund operations at shelters, staff to carry out services, food and transportation. The city’s extreme weather plan is part of its larger Zero KC effort to end homelessness.

The city council greenlit the funding in a 12-1 vote on Thursday. 1st District Councilmember Nathan Willett was the only no vote. Willett told KCUR he voted no because a question about where a potential low-barrier homeless shelter would be located went unanswered. He said he wanted clarity on that issue before supporting the ordinance.

About $500,000 will come from money collected through the city’s 3% marijuana sales tax. Another $800,000 is coming from the city’s general fund.

The city will collaborate with 16 local organizations to provide shelter and services to unhoused residents during the winter months. The funding will allow shelters to hire more staff and increase their capacity. Other nonprofits will provide food, mental health services, medical care, transitional living support and trafficking support.

“Our priorities through our cold weather plan are standardizing an approach for our cold weather response and operations, so that we're not operating from a knee-jerk standpoint, but we have everything laid out and ready to go,” said Blaine Proctor, director of housing and community development.

Josh Henges, homelessness coordinator with Kansas City, said the goal is to not turn anyone away.

“We're gonna do everything that we can so that no one is left out — regardless of the temperature,” he said.

A man in heavy winter clothes holds one end of a blanket while a woman who is underneath the other end stands up. It's snowing and there is a lot of snow on the ground. A tent is seen in the background.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus Executive Director Doug Langner helps a woman get up out of the snow where she slept over night in February 2022.

Ten shelters will open depending on the weather. Together, these shelters will have capacity for 450 people, which is in addition to the number of people shelters already serve on a daily basis.

  • 80 spaces are considered all-gender
  • 152 spaces are for men
  • 112 spaces are for women
  • 6 spaces are for families

The city has four levels to its extreme weather plan, which dictates which shelters open based on the weather:

  • Level 1: Between Dec. 1 and March 1, three shelters will be open every night regardless of the temperature. The open shelters will be Hope Faith, True Light and Unity Southeast.
  • Level 2: Between Nov. 1 and April 1, four more shelters will open if the temperature is 32 degrees or below, 25 degrees with windchill or 32 degrees with windchill and precipitation, for a total of seven open shelters. Shelter KC for men, City Union Mission for men and women, and Hope City will open up at this level.
  • Level 3: Between Nov. 1 and April 1, three more shelters will open if the temperature is 25 degrees or below, 15 degrees with windchill or 25 degrees with windchill and precipitation — for a total of 10 shelters open across the city. Heartland, Shelter KC for women and Crosslines will open up at this level.
  • Level 4: If the temperature is 0 degrees or below, each shelter will do what they can to increase capacity and take in any person left out in the cold.

Updated: October 27, 2023 at 11:39 AM CDT
This story was updated to include a council member's explanation of their vote.
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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