Why Are There So Many Empty Houses in KC?
We're half way through the coldest weeks of this winter so far. What are you noticing about yourself in this weather? What emotions are up? What is the impact of this cold, gray weather on your home, your mood, your body? What do you do to take care of yourself?
This week, I have been thinking a lot about those in Kansas City who are experiencing housing insecurity and houselessness.
During this pandemic, the CDC has banned evictions. That hasn’t stopped the Jackson County Courts from moving forward with eviction proceedings. In January alone, 854 eviction hearings were scheduled to be heard at the Jackson County Courthouse. A local group, KC Tenants, organized actions that shut down many of those proceedings, but not all.
While evictions keep happening, the city has simultaneously increased its sweeps of the different camps of houseless people. Sometimes with no warning, without an opportunity to collect their Identification Cards and other important documents, bulldozers and workers pull up to the camps and sweep every item into trucks headed for the landfill.
Meanwhile, there are 10,000 vacant homes in KCMO (5 houses per 1 person experiencing houselessness). Half of these homes are owned by the city.
Take a moment to really imagine this: You’ve been evicted during a pandemic. You have nowhere to go. The shelters are full (or you’re LGBTQ so the shelter kicked you out). You find a group of people in your situation, you pool your resources into a campsite. You leave your camp to go to a job interview. You pass multiple empty homes in transit. When you return, your camp is gone. Swept away by a private landscaping company contracted by the city you’ve called home your entire life.
I’ve painted a very bleak picture for you. This is our city. These are our neighbors. What’s stopping us, as a city, from housing everyone?
At Broadway Church, we believe that the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution. Houseless people and their allies are organizing! A union has formed. They’ve camped out on the lawn of City Hall to demonstrate their collective power. Negotiations have started with city government. Additional warming centers have opened (and filled). The movement to end houselessness in Kansas City is gaining momentum and here’s how you can help:
1. Donate to the Midwest Homeless Collective to pay for cold weather hotel respite.
Venmo - @MWHomelessCollective
Cashapp - $MWHomelessCollective
2. Follow Midwest Homeless Collective on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date about negotiations, demands, material needs, and opportunities to get involved. Share their stories with your friends to raise awareness.
Individually, our impact may be small. Together, we can do big things!