Donations down for City Union Mission; Leadership not panicked, but asking for help

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Founded in 1924, the oldest homeless mission in Kansas City is struggling to raise money for its programs. 

For the first time in recent history, donations are way down for the City Union Mission’s annual “Celebrate Hope” fundraising campaign. An organization that takes no state or federal funding is asking for the public’s help to make ends meet.

The City Union Mission has helped Kansas City’s homeless through the Prohibition Era, World War Two and Vietnam, though the Civil Rights movement and now though a pandemic.

“We want to give people a hot shower, a warm meal, and clothing in addition to wrap around services,” Terry Megli, City Union Mission CEO, said. “We want to help address the issues that contribute to homelessness.”

Every day, the City Union Mission feeds and shelters about 400 men, women and children. More than 650 meals are served up to hungry members of the community.

Natasha Giddings is a single mom who lives in the long-term New Life Center, a resident for about four months. Her bright eyes and easy smile show almost no evidence of the difficult road she has walked down, but she is quick to say, without the City Union Mission, she would be in a very dark place.

“I would be incarcerated. I will be honest,” Giddings said. “Due to addiction and traumas in my life, that’s where I would be, and that’s no place for human beings.” 

The City Union Mission is one of only a handful of shelters in the country that has housing set aside for homeless men that struggle with mental illness and physical disabilities. 

Ron lives there. He is a Navy veteran who shares a room with four other men. They each have their own bed and a locker.

A year ago, he was on the streets near death. 

“I was laid out. I was drinking too much, and I fell down and broke my back,” Ron said with tears streaming down his face. “Now I’ve been praising God that I’m still alive today”. 

In ten days, he is moving out of the mission and into his own apartment.

Ervin is Ron’s roommate. The two have become close friends. Only men who have endured the streets know the heartache and hard-fought victory of some stories can’t be told without tears.

The intense emotion of the journey clog Ervin’s throat as he cries, “They’ve helped me a lot.”

COVID-19 has changed things at the City Union Mission. Volunteers aren’t allowed inside any more. Church groups that regularly served meals to the folks staying at the Mission have stopped coming altogether.

Expenses are up; donations down. 

“We really want to let the community know where we are at,” Dennis Chapman, Chief Development Director, said.

He hasn’t seen a shortfall in the “Celebrate Hope” campaign in the 19 years he has been with City Union Mission. 

“We are not panicked. God owns it all, so we are just looking forward to what Kansas City is going to do,” Chapman said.

Because of an imminent end to eviction moratoriums and continued high jobless numbers, the Mission is bracing for a new year with a high probability of new and increased needs to meet, and they are asking those that can to help.

Donations can be made at cityunionmission.org.

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