KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Police think of it as a hotbed for illegal activity, but one nonprofit and its leader see potential in this east Kansas City neighborhood.
If Mt. Washington Missionary Baptist Church is a sanctuary, then Gregory Parr might be this community’s saving grace.
“I don’t see people for what they are,” he said. “I see them for what they can be. That’s hope.”
His simple goal: to keep people out of prison.
“I’ve been there, done that,” he said. “I’m trying to help other people to not go where I’ve been.”
Parr leads the nonprofit Neighbor2Neighbor, which is based in Mt. Washington Missionary Baptist Church.
But the streets around 36th and Wasbash are a major concern to police and Parr. They’re becoming a hotspot for drug dealers, homeless people and prostitutes.
Parr said he’s a recovering drug addict himself, one who was arrested at least 90 times before he got sober. Neighbor2Neighbor is his effort to feed those offenders and get them help if they’ll accept it.
“He’s at least meeting one of their needs — that’s feeding them,” the Rev. Willie Norton said. “They won’t listen to you if you don’t feed them.”
Parr said it’s working. Neighbor2Neighbor has been in existence since 1996. Since March 2018, Parr said his group has helped 180 people get off the streets and into treatment.
But police say the crime is getting worse, and Parr knows it’s an uphill battle.
“The solution is they don’t have to be homeless anymore. We can help them eliminate the reasons they’re homeless. That’s our primary reason for Neighbor2Neighbor to be in existence,” Parr said.
And sometimes, a voice with experience is all it takes.
Neighbor2Neighbor offers two community meals per day — breakfast and lunch — as well as drug and alcohol counseling. You can learn more here.