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How Kansas City's marijuana sales tax will help fund homelessness solutions

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

In April, Kansas City voters approved a 3% tax on recreational marijuana revenue —1% of which will go towards finding solutions for houseless population. The city's homelessness prevention coordinator shared ideas of how the funding might be used.

Josh Henges, Kansas City's homelessness prevention coordinator, estimates there are several thousand unhoused individuals living in the city, although an accurate number is difficult to obtain.

This fall, he expects to have an estimate of how much money has been generated from the city's recreational marijuana tax — which voters approved during the April election — to support Kansas City's unhoused population.

The 3% sales tax on recreational weed purchases is added on top of other sales taxes, and is intended to fund "refuse and neighborhood cleanup services, homeless prevention services, and violence prevention services."

The city is currently working to create youth transitional housing at the site of DeLano School, and moving towards the creation of a low barrier emergency shelter.

Henges wants the new tax revenue to fund street outreach, case management and advanced payment options for landlords who house at risk clients. He said there must be funding for mental illness and substance abuse treatment, some of which are the root causes of chronic homelessness.

"It's not about empty space. It's about how we're going to work with the folks to keep them housed once they're housed," Henges said. "We've got to solve a lot of problems in order to get them into housing and keep them there."

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