Organization steps up to help metro’s ‘hidden homeless’ get back on their feet

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- Take a second and picture a homeless person. Chances are you weren’t thinking of a 7-year-old, but that’s average age of homeless in Kansas City, and people working to help them say things are only getting worse.

Those numbers don’t count the hidden homeless families all across the metro, living in hotels without much hope.

One Olathe family may not have a white picket fence and a backyard, but it’s a lot better than where the family of five lived a week ago.

“We lived paycheck-to-paycheck, we were able to pay our bills before, but we had nothing in the end to fall back on,” mom Samantha Falk said.

So they ended up moving each week from motel to motel.

“It does get really stressful, you don’t know where your family is going to lay their heads, you worry about the kids and where their next meal is to come from,” said dad William Carson.

It’s a burden more parents than you might realize have to bear, even in some of the metro’s best school districts.

Crush Williams, 7, goes to school in Lee’s Summit, but rides by himself in a taxi each day to his home, a motel room at the Welcome Inn in Blue Springs.

“You get all different forms of life that come in here, some people just come here to party, some people have to live here, and some people have been here for years,” Kyte Williams said.

The motel has become a magnet for families with just enough money to stay for the week, but not enough for a deposit.

Eleven-year-old Andrew sleeps on the floor of a motel room with his family of six crammed inside.

“I just want to get out of here sometimes,” he said.

“It’s hard on them as much as it is for the parents, it’s hard on all of us,” his mom Dawn continued.

That’s where groups like River of Refuge come in. They’ve converted an old hospital on Raytown Road into two and three bedroom apartments. They are rent free, but reserved for working homeless families.

“We target, that working poor, those people who fall through the cracks, those people in motels or doubled up on someone’s couch, or even in their car,” Stephanie Keck said.

Carson and Falk were one of the last couples to get an apartment as demand for the charity’s resources grows.

“We actually have a kitchen and we actually have our own room,” said Ainsley Falk.

“Asking for help is really hard for me, but my main concern wasn’t about me, it was about my family,” Carson said.

Families learn to budget their expenses and how to pay off debts or bills, so they can hopefully get a lease within about six months.

“Helping those families that live here to be able to feel safe, to feel secure, to get back on their feet and know that there’s somebody who believes in them is pretty awesome,” Keck said.

For every success story, there are countless more families living in hotels, the hidden homeless, who don’t even show up in statistics of the more than 2,000 homeless families on just the Missouri side of the Metro.

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