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‘Pass our package’: Group introduces KC tenant bill of rights on the steps of City Hall

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City renters are making it clear to the City Council they want more rights. On Wednesday on the steps of City Hall, they presented their plan alongside Mayor Quinton Lucas.

"Pass our package! Pass our package!" supporters chanted.

For the past four months, the group KC Tenants worked with the mayor and lawyers to build the proposal.

Twelve-year-old AJ Caldwell became homeless along with his whole family when his mother's cancer came back.

"A bill of rights would change our lives," Caldwell said. "My mom has been working with KC Tenants on a bill of rights. I think we need that. When we win, we could have real justice. I think the mayor and the City Council should fight for my family."

It's an effort both Lucas and Councilman Eric Bunch are willing to fight for.

"They're dealing with rodents in their houses," Lucas said. "They're dealing with utilities that don't work. They're dealing with costs that they don't know about. That's right: It ain't right."

"I’m here today to stand with you in support of the tenants bill of rights, and I’m here as a champion for you," Bunch said.

Tonya Bowman became homeless in February when her landlord refused to renew her lease. She's been living on friends' couches, in her car and now in a shelter. She has a job, but she said it's not enough to pay rent and survive.

"It's killing my spirit to be homeless," Bowman said. "If I ask for a hug, there's a problem. Kansas City, I need a hug. I need you to pass our tenant bill of rights package. Really, I need it yesterday."

The proposal includes a bill of rights for tenants, the right to council in the eviction process, and the creation of a tenants advocate office.

"All of us need to make sure that when this ordinance is introduced tomorrow, we need to keep fighting, and we need to keep fighting until it is passed," Lucas said.

"As a tenant without basic rights, I am struggling to survive," KC Tenants leader Maya Neal said. "I want to garden. I want to make art. I want to see my dreams come true. For that to happen, I need to have my rights. I need the city to have my back."

The bill of rights will be introduced to the City Council on Thursday. It will also be heard by a special committee on Nov. 6.

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