INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Placement of some homeless people outside Kansas City limits is creating controversy after Independence city leaders say they were blind-sided by Kansas City’s decision.
Roughly 20-30 people were taken to two Independence-area hotels, booked for 90 days and paid for by the city of Kansas City.
City leaders in Independence said they had no idea this was happening.
“Independence is a great, compassionate city. We want to do what we can to help the homeless and their crisis and their time of need, but as neighboring cities, we just wanted some communication, work out those logistics and how we could have been more a part of that,” Third District Councilman Michael Steinmeyer said.
Steinmeyer said council members and the mayor learned of the program after Independence police contacted the city manager Tuesday afternoon, questioning how the people would be fed, transported and assisted.
Steinmeyer is one of two Independence council members speaking out about the confusion and what he calls lack of transparency.
“It was kind of like dropped on us. We definitely have homeless here, and we try to help them out as much as we can, but there was no communication whatsoever,” Council Member and Mayor Pro-tem Mike Huff said.
Huff said besides lack of notice, the decision to stay at a hotel long-term goes against an Independence city code.
“The extended stay is 30 days. I believe it is a state statue also. After that it becomes basically a rental house, which will have inspections and things like that,” Huff said. “We directed city staff to do some investigating and see exactly what took place.”
A spokesperson for Hope Faith, the nonprofit working with the city of Kansas City to house people, said it’s working with business owners to find space, wherever there is availability and willing to contract with the city.
“Hotel owners have hotels all over the city, when we’re scrambling to find blocks of rooms, I’m not going to put one person in a hotel, we have to focus on blocks, that also helps logistically and case management and behavioral to go to one location,” said Jaysen Van Sickle, executive director at Hope Faith. “We are looking for consolidating as many guests in one hotel as possible.”
The city of Kansas City released the following statement:
“The City of Independence has reached out to the nonprofit overseeing the City of Kansas City homeless outreach efforts to resolve confusion related to housing options within the Independence City limits. All concerns are in the process of being addressed.
This conversation brings to light the importance of and the ongoing need for additional resources to address homelessness and housing insecurity. The City of Independence is working locally with community partners and regionally with various communities in the metro to create long term plans that address the health, safety and emergency support service needs related to homelessness and housing insecurity.”
Independence leaders were told Wednesday evening the group would be relocated to Kansas City after new housing and hotel space was secured. By the end of Wednesday, the 19 people that were staying in Independence had already been relocated to other locations.
“We can certainly look at accommodating any pressing needs of our neighboring cities, but a little communication, a little relationship goes a long way with us in Independence,” Steinmeyer said.
FOX4 reached out to Kansas City leaders about the decision and confusion by some leaders; we are waiting for a response.