This Anti-Violence Activist Is Going Door-To-Door To Find Out Why Kansas City Is So Angry
Rosilyn Temple has been starting conversations about Kansas City's crime problem since 2014. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice is kicking in $75,000 to help her continue that mission for the next seven years.
"The community is angry," Temple said. "That's why we have so much violent crime today."
KC Mothers in Charge, the anti-violence group Temple founded six years ago, is kicking off a new door-to-door effort called "Why Are We So Angry?" She hopes it will educate and embolden residents to take back their neighborhoods.
The initiative will eventually cover eight neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri, starting in North Town Fork Creek neighborhood south of Brush Creek between Swope Parkway and Highway 71. Temple and two note-takers have begun their initial rounds in the neighborhood, and will make up to five visits to each home.
"I'm sitting in there in their homes and getting to know them. We're not coming and telling what they need to do, we're asking them how can we help them," she said.
The problems she is hearing about are myriad: Unattended children roaming the streets, theft from yards, gunshots and the presence of drug houses are common complaints.
Mental health is often an issue, she said, whether people are suffering themselves or struggling to care for a loved one. It's made worse when drug abuse and trauma are present in a home.
Many residents feel police response rates are too slow, Temple said, and they don't understand why they're being put on hold when they call to report something.
She has some degree of sympathy for the police.
"You know, anytime you have over 500 (nonfatal) shootings a year, that's a lot," she said. "The manpower the police department's working with is not a lot."
Temple also meets residents who don't know how to report a crime appropriately. She tells them about programs like the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers. That's run by the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, which is partering in the "Why Are We So Angry?" effort.
Residents can report a crime annonymously by calling the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS, going online or using a free mobile app. But some, Temple said, don't trust the service.
"A lot of people are scared, but a lot of people are tired. They're tired of the violence."
Some are understandably reluctant to open their door to a group of strangers. It takes time and effort to build up trust, but Temple is not the kind to leave after the first "no."
In 2011, her 26-year-old son, Antonio Thompson, was shot and killed in Kansas City. It took years to recover from the loss, she said, but "I surrendered my life to God (and) he renewed my mind."
Since then, she's become well known for showing up at the scene of homicides, and talking with victims' families and the police.
"When you show a community that you are consistent in what you're doing and you stand there, walking a grieving path from losing a child, people open them doors up," she said.
KC Mothers in Charge currently offers counseling services to more than 400 families each week, Temple said, and they have plans to offer conflict resolution classes in the neighborhoods she and her team are canvassing.
"We're looking at people (who) don't know how to deal with conflict," she said. "Family, people have dealt with a lot of trauma in their life, don't know how to deal with things. We got to help them."
Also common, though less urgent, are out-of-town landlords and tennants who don't take care of homes or buildings. Sometimes delapidated properties might qualify for grant programs that can help rejuvenate and rebuild. When she can, she tries to make that connection for residents.
"They're older home owners, you know, and no one wants to speak up for them," she said. "No one deserves to have to ... live in a community that's not being cleaned up."
Most of the solutions available for these kinds of concerns aren't big or ground-breaking, she said. Sometimes it's as simple as figuring out how to get a Dumpster placed in an area that needs cleaning up. But she's convinced every new tool makes a difference.
At the end of their three months on Bales Avenue, Temple and the Mothers in Charge plan to host a round table discussion with residents to figure out how to continue the momentum, and bring together the residents who want to be part of the neighborhood solution.
"We as a community, we can take back a lot of this violence ourselves ... cause it starts in our homes," Temple said. "It's nothing going to change till we change it."