Kansas City Delays Decision To Buy “Little Houses” As Temporary Help For The Homeless | KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Council on Thursday delayed its decision to create a village of “cottages” for about 200 people until they can find permanent housing.

The proposal to spend $ 1.7 million in taxes on about 95 pallet homes was referred to a committee for further discussion rather than a full council vote on Thursday.

This means that no action is yet taken on what has become very controversial talks in Kansas City about how to deal with the city’s roaming issues.

The idea of ​​a mini-house campus surfaced in April as a new step to serve several hundred people recently housed in hotel rooms. These hotel stays are scheduled to end in mid-July.

City manager Brian Platt warned Thursday that the city has no other good options for many of these families after the hotel contract ends.

“People are going to end up on the streets,” he said, adding that there aren’t enough other shelter beds to meet the needs.

Council members were inundated with calls and emails regarding the proposal, with many residents not wanting the community to be close to their neighborhoods.

City Councilor Teresa Loar asked why Kansas City is pursuing the idea of ​​an emergency shelter when nonprofit shelter providers already exist.

“I’m not sure that’s something we want to get into,” she said.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said he was interested in the concept, but council needs consensus on how to proceed.

“Do we want to be in this business,” he asked the other board members, “or not?”

The mini-houses are meant to be a bridge to more permanent housing, said deputy city manager Kimiko Gilmore.

“It’s just about getting a person out of a tent, from under a bridge to something more structured, where they have a safe environment with enveloping services,” she told members of the board in June.

They are 64 square foot units for two people with heating, air conditioning, windows and locks. Shared bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities and meals are provided. Case managers and security services are provided, as well as medical and mental health services, employment counseling, transportation and life skills training.

The exact location of the hosting community, called Verge, has not yet been identified. One possibility, Gilmore said, is vacant town land a few blocks east of Town Hall on the 12th.e Street. It is being considered for the future mixed-use development of East Village, but is not currently in use.

The property does not border a residential area. Some residents of Columbus Park and other northeastern neighborhoods have Vehemently opposed this type of homeless shelter community near their homes.

Pallet house villages are proliferating as short-term emergency housing in some 50 communities, including California, Oregon and Washington. They are seen as an affordable and temporary solution.

But City Councilor Heather Hall noted that Missouri is not the West Coast. She questioned the health and safety of unplumbed pallet homes.

“I am very uncomfortable when people live in a building without running water,” Hall said Thursday.

Kansas City would be the first city in the Midwest with pallet homes, but Gilmore said Kansas City, Kansas and Raytown have expressed interest.

Verge’s proposal gained traction in Kansas City after tent camps sprang up last winter outside City Hall and near Westport. In April, council ordered the city manager to provide a hotel and other living space for homeless people as a temporary solution.

The city began accommodating nearly 400 people in 12 Kansas City hotels for 90 days. On June 24, the council approved a plan to finance hotels through mid-July, capping the cost of the hotel over three months at around $ 4 million, paid for with stimulus dollars from the city and government. federal government.

Some families served in hotels have found permanent accommodation. But most didn’t, and it’s unclear where they might end up. That is why city officials were hoping to build the village of small houses and serve up to 200 people this summer.

As it debates pallet homes, Kansas City is also exploring longer-term solutions for the homeless. Among the approaches:

  • Housing Trust Fund. The council plans to provide $ 12.5 million in stimulus funds to launch an affordable housing trust fund and wants feedback on the best ways to spend this money.
  • $ 1 houses. The city is seeking proposals to rehabilitate the Land Bank homes and is also partnering with various neighborhoods to build more single-family homes on vacant lots.
  • Renovation of old schools and hotels. One possibility is the Adams Mark Hotel near the stadiums.

“We are considering converting unused hotels and schools into permanent housing,” Platt told council on June 24. at minimal conversion cost.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.

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