OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County’s cold weather shelter for the homeless opened on Thursday.
It’s a place of refuge for people who have nowhere else to turn during the winter months. However, advocates for the homeless complaint the shelter isn’t enough, and community activists are asking the county to do more.
“We’re advocating for people who really don’t have a voice,” Pastor Tim Suttle, who leads Good Faith Network, said.
To be specific, Good Faith Network, which represents 25 faith-based congregations around the county, is asking the county for a comprehensive plan to end homelessness. Community service advocates report, on any given day, 212 people in the county experience chronic homelessness, many of whom are employed full-time.
Good Faith Network wants the county to hire a homeless coordinator. That group held a special prayer service outside the county’s cold weather shelter on Thursday.
Suttle is among those who point out the county’s current provisions have only 60 emergency shelter beds for a community of 600,000 people.
“We’re asking people to see the homeless as their neighbors and to be good neighbors and, yet, with such an intractable problem, we need our leaders to step up and lead us,” Suttle said.
In late 2021, Johnson County commissioners earmarked more than $2 million to assist the homeless via various programs. On Thursday, Commission Chairman Ed Eilert told FOX4 commissioners are considering use of an additional $4 million to construct new housing options for the homeless.
Julie Brewer, who works with United Community Services of Johnson County, emphasizes the need to aid people grows when the weather turns colder. Brewer’s agency is the leading source of data concerning the homeless in Johnson County.
“It’s hard to not want to see things move at a quicker pace, but we’re very appreciative this summer with some of the American Rescue Plan dollars the county has prioritized housing across a continuum, including the most vulnerable part of our population,” Brewer said.
Eilert said the topic of that additional $4 million will be addressed during an upcoming meeting on December 8.
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