Join our family of curious Kansas Citians

Discover unheard stories about Kansas City, every Thursday.

Thank you for subscribing!

Check your inbox, you should see something from us.

Sign Me Up
Hit enter to search or ESC to close

Downtown Council Drops Homeless Camp Idea, Welcomes Donations to Community Center

Share this story
Sponsor Message Become a Flatland sponsor
3 minute read

By Kevin Collison

The Downtown Council’s efforts to help the homeless population got some good news this Thanksgiving week, tempering the collapse of its proposal to establish a temporary camp for emergency shelter this winter.

A fundraiser led by engineering firm Burns & McDonnell raised $105,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to build a new handicapped-accessible ramp and make other repairs to the organizations’ Downtown Community Services Center at 750 The Paseo.

“In these difficult times for fundraising Burns & McDonnell employee-owners really stepped up to the plate,” Sean O’Byrne, Downtown Council vice president, said in a statement.

“They not only took ownership of this project, but also helped pull together a wonderful group of big-hearted companies that made the repairs possible.”

The Community Services Center opened in 2008 to provide a central location for homeless services including meals and health care. NourishKC operates a kitchen and has served more than 1 million meals over the last decade, including nearly 150,000 last year.

A new handicapped-accessible ramp is being built at the Downtown Community Services Center thanks to a fundraising effort that raised $105,000 in cash and in-kind donations. (Photo courtesy Downtown Council)

Each year, the Downtown Council raises $50,000 to maintain the facility.

“The DCSC is the point of entry for homeless persons needing counselors, clothing, nutritious meals and housing referrals,” O’Byrne said in a statement.

In related news however, the Council’s proposal to address a looming “humanitarian crisis” for the homeless exposed to the elements this winter has fallen apart in the face of neighborhood opposition and apparent lackluster support from city and county officials.

Earlier this month, the organization of downtown business and property owners proposed using the former Chouteau Court public housing property northwest of Independence Avenue and The Paseo to establish a temporary, six-month homeless camp.

The proposal called for erecting 25 heated tents with bedding and support facilities in an orderly, supervised camp similar to one recently erected in Lawrence by local officials.

The Downtown Council had wanted to erect a supervised homeless camp on the vacant site of the former Chouteau Courts housing development.

The location was suggested because it was within short walking distance of several homeless service organizations.

The Downtown Council also believed the vacant property was a good choice because it was not close to a densely populated area.

That assumption however, was quickly disputed by residents of nearby neighborhoods including Columbus Park, Pendleton Heights and Scarritt Renaissance who said they were blindsided by the proposal.

“This is a great idea and unfortunate location,” Adam Shieber, a former president of the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood group, said in a Facebook post in response to a CityScene KC article.

“The constant, deliberate relocation of “unsightly” poverty from downtown core to Northeast needs a public conversation.”

This Downtown Council wanted to establish an organized camp with heated tents and services to help address a looming crisis this winter. This homeless man living outdoors near the River Market was caught in the snow and cold that hit Kansas City in late October. (Photo from Downtown Council)

Leslie Caplan, another former Scarritt association president, wrote in an email to CityScene and city officials “I can tell you that this this is a bad idea and that you need to find another place for these transients.

“Let’s be clear: these are not homeless people who can find support at any number of the shelters and be helped by social workers at agencies and with KCPD.

“These are transients who flock to KC because they know that services are abundant and nobody gets turned away…My suggestion is that you find a place for them in your midst—not ours.”

O’Byrne said the Downtown Council has dropped the tent camp idea and will support homeless organizations including the Coalition to End Homelessness, NourishKC, ReStart and Hope & Safe in their efforts to shelter the vulnerable population this winter.

NourishKC has served more than a million meals to the homeless from the kitchen and dining facility in operates on the lower level of the Downtown Community Services Center.

“As a community organization ourself, we listen to the community and the community had great concerns about Chouteau Court,” O’Byrne said “We’ve hit the reset button and will follow the lead of other groups.

“We’re looking at best practices for service providers and hope we can get behind them and help fundraise. We do believe it’s an epic-scale problem to address before the weather turns.”

As for the Community Services Center, other organizations helping with repairs and the new ramp are BHC Rhodes, Copaken Brooks, Epic Concrete Construction, Flynn, ISW Industrial, KH Engineering Group, Kansas City Industrial Steel, Mark One Electrical Company, P1 Group and Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors.

“The Downtown Community Services Center is home to critical organizations serving the homeless and battling hunger in Kansas City,” Nathan Benjamin, department manager at Burns & McDonnell and Downtown Council member, said in a statement.

“It’s exciting to see so many companies from the community come together to make needed repairs to the facility and it’s an honor to be a part of the effort.”

Like what you are reading?

Discover more unheard stories about Kansas City, every Thursday.

Thank you for subscribing!

Check your inbox, you should see something from us.

Enter Email
Your support helps Flatland’s storytellers cover the issues that matter to this community. Give what you can to help in-depth, nonprofit journalism thrive in Kansas City. Support Local Journalism
Sponsor Message Become a Flatland sponsor

Ready to read next

A Therapist’s Advice: 5 Ways to Navigate Fraught Conversations with Family

These tips may help avoid a recipe for holiday disaster

Read Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *