Friday, June 12, 2009

June 26 conference seeks to end homelessness in Kansas City


The Kansas City Missouri Police Department will host a conference June 26 that will explore ways to create systemic change to end homelessness in the Kansas City region.

The conference, titled, “From This Day Forward: Ending Homelessness in Kansas City,” will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon June 26 at the Kansas City Police Academy, 6885 NE Pleasant Valley Road. Anyone interested in homelessness should attend, including social service personnel and government and elected officials who are interested in helping design a solution to the problem of homelessness in the region.

The video above and on the Kansas City Police Department’s Web site,, is called “What is the Cost of Doing Nothing?” It explores the financial impact of letting the problem of homelessness continue as it has been – handled largely by public safety agencies and the judicial system.

“Our mental illness policy in this country has made homelessness a law enforcement problem,” said Evelyn Craig, executive director of reStart Inc. and co-chair of the Homelessness Summit Task Force.

KCPD estimates that it responds to 25 calls a week involving homeless persons. If just one call per week could be eliminated, that could amount to an almost $2 million savings per year, according to the online video. Police Chief James Corwin and other leaders from law enforcement, the judiciary, hospitals, shelters and others have been meeting for more than a year and a half to create a blue-ribbon commission that would sway public policy toward creating solutions that compassionately eliminate homelessness in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. This conference will be a major step toward that goal.

“The end of homelessness is a lofty but necessary goal for the future vitality of our community,” said Dr. George Harris, co-chair of the Homelessness Summit Task Force. “To end homelessness, it is now clear that there must be an integration and coordination of private and public social service efforts, police, and judicial responses to public policy initiatives.”

The conference will summarize the results of the Kansas City homeless census taken in January, review changes in homeless populations, identify gaps in service, review programs in other cities, discuss police involvement with the homeless and talk about moving from the paradigm of soup kitchens and shelters to treatment and supportive housing.

It also will feature a panel discussion with Municipal Court Judge Joe Locascio, Downtown Council CEO Bill Dietrich, Mayor Mark Funkhouser, Chief Corwin and former city council member Alvin Brooks.

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