What used to be an elaborate encampment for the Kansas City homeless in a Westport intersection is now a desolate, orange-fenced patch of land.
Major Lucas announced his agreement with the KC Homeless Union on April 8 to remove the homeless camps that were erected in Westport and outside City Hall.
Lucas tweeted that he is “proud of the process and consensus we have built with the @kchomelessunion.”
Together they agreed on relocating the unhoused to local hotels paid by the city, offering job finding services, and creating opportunities for permanent housing through vacant and land-bank homes around Kansas City.
An estimated 567,715 people in America experience homelessness, with numbers on the rise due to COVID-19. The pandemic has led to mass unemployment, leaving some tenants unable to pay the rent.
“As we work to provide housing/support services for all, including the unhoused, we’ve seen that the average room night even at a hotel/motel versus what we last paid for the Jackson County Jail is about $30 less per room,” Lucas wrote in a tweet. “Really taking care of folks saves money over time.”
Lucas said the city will work to ensure poverty is not concentrated to only one small location in the city, but rather spread evenly.
“We are building policies to ensure affordability citywide,” Lucas said. “As we craft our programs, we will be ever mindful of neighborhood concerns.”
Kat Rouse, a UMKC business administration major, said that she is glad Lucas is bringing awareness to the increase of unhoused in the city. She feels positive about the resources offered that go beyond basic relocation, including job finding services and assistance purchasing permanent homes.
“Although his plan is only a baby step and is going to take some time to accomplish, it is a step in the right direction,” Rouse said. “I feel as if KC officials are handling the situation a lot better and more civil than other states who have turned to unnecessary violence against the residents in unhoused camps.”
Kansas Citian Stefan Shipley said in an interview with Fox4 that he hopes the plan is to eliminate the issue from the source rather than a short-term cover-up.
“Changing all these people’s living conditions might be just what they need to push themselves to do better,” Shipley said. “Truth be told, a lot of people are just one paycheck away from being right where we are right now.”