Giant thrift store funds housing for homeless in Platte County

KANSAS CITY NORTH -- An increase in homeless families has caused a Platte County charitable group to open one the largest thrift stores in the metro area.

Sales at the Hillcrest Platte County Thrift Shop in the Picture Hills Shopping Center help provide housing for people living out of their cars.

It may be hard for some to believe one of the wealthier counties in the metro, Platte County, has a homeless problem. But this Christian organization says helping people become self sufficient is it's growing mission.

Profits from the new 33,000-square-foot thrift store help pay for 35 transitional apartments the group has throughout Platte County, including new dormitory-style units in Platte City to help young adults between 18 and 24.

Yaquese Welcher now works at the store after graduating from Hillcrest's ministry. She says learning not to spend more than she earns was the key to getting and keeping a stable place to live.

"The first thing it helped me do was to create a budget," Welcher said. "That’s the big thing, to get your finances in order, so you can be self sufficient once you graduate from the program. I saved up a lot of money over $1,100. That helped me move out on my own."

Hillcrest Platte County also partners with local churches to prevent evictions. The group says it has successfully prevented more than 200 households from being forced out in the streets.

Hillcrest says 95 percent of the homeless who enter program become self supporting, with  roofs over their heads.

Volunteers also are a huge part of the group's success. Seniors donate their time to work at the store, increasing the amount of money that can be devoted to helping others find stability in their lives.