Leaders at city hall tent camp end second day of talks with mayor

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Kansas City’s mayor says he’s making progress in negotiating with a homeless group that has turned City Hall into a tent city.

Back when it was bitter cold and Bartle Hall turned into a homeless shelter, one man said enough with the Band-Aid-style solutions. He goes by the name Qadhafi. He pitched a tent and created the <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/kchomelessunion/” target=”_blank”>KC Homeless Union</a>.

“When I first came out here, I came to make everybody uncomfortable, and we formed the union to effect policy and change,” he said Wednesday.

Austin Whitfield set up camp three days ago. He says he’s a welder and painter and has been getting help from <a href=”https://www.trumed.org/locations/tmc-behavioral-health-recovery-health-services/” target=”_blank”>Recovery Health Services</a>, Truman Medical Center’s program for people with addiction and mental health problems. He got choked up talking about his case manager.

“She’s wonderful but she’s overwhelmed like most of our services are,” Whitfield said.

He just got signed up for Supplemental Security Income and Section 8 housing with her help, but he knows a lot of folks here don’t even have ID.

“And they just don’t have the skills to do the paperwork or to get the applications from the Housing Authority, fill that out and send that back in and obtain the right kind of services,” Whitfield explained.

The writing on one of the tents reads, “Can you see us now?”

That visibility led to an order to vacate earlier this week, but then the mayor suggested they talk.

Wednesday was his second day of talks with the union.

“Some things we are proposing is not just our dollar-home Land Bank properties but also working with developers who will exclusively offer homes for those who are at 30 percent of area median income or below,” said Lucas. “That is $400/month rent or below.”

Another proposal he’s getting behind is 90 days of motel housing.

“But we would also look for folks to avail themselves of those opportunities,” Lucas added. “No agreements yet, but we think we are making progress.”

In the interim, Whitfield is grateful for the strangers who’ve dropped off food and the social service workers who have set him on a hopeful path.

“We all make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of them. Some of this is my own fault, self-destructive behaviors, but those things are in the past and I’m trying to move forward,” Whitfield said.