Homeless staying in Kansas City hotels through temporary program now being moved

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It has been 19 days since Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the leader of the KC Homeless Union announced the city would cover 500 hotels rooms for 90 days for people experiencing homelessness to give people some stability.

People had been living in a dozen facilities across town. Now people from two hotels are being relocated to other facilities across the metro.

William Hunter and his family moved into the EconoLodge with a 90-day deadline in mind. Less than 30 days in and he has already landed a job at a place in walking distance from his temporary home.

“I don’t want to move out. I’m all right right here,” Hunter said. “We’re starting to come up in life and we just want to do better for this kid right here.”

Buses pulled up to pick up people Monday and Tuesday. There had been 88 rooms previously occupied at the EconoLodge. Hunter says the new hotel is near the airport and far from work.  

Takishia Ford had also been living in the hotel. She has secured a job steps away from her temporary residence.

“They did tell me 90 days, so I put my effort into that,” Ford said. “Now they’re telling me they’re going to move me somewhere else which means they’re taking my job away, my volunteer position away my livelihood away all over again.”

Kansas City leaders said they’re moving for financial reasons coupled with accusations of disrespect from a few guests.

“Overall, the decision was made because it’s really about keeping people in a safe place that works for them that we can work very well with the management to make sure they’re treating people correctly and we are able to give them the services they need,” Chris Hernandez, city communications official said.

The people we spoke to say they were treated well by EconoLodge management. Hiral Bhakta, the owner of the hotel says he verbally agreed to a rate of $100 a night for all 88 of his rooms. Bhakta walked FOX4 through his facility and showed us a handful of trashed rooms. He said he’s disappointed in the unfulfilled deal, for himself but also the people living there.

“Their commitment to me was verbally 90 days, my commitment to the people here was 90 days that’s why they started seeking employment,” Bhakta said. “You could see a change in everyone’s behavior when they felt a sense of security when they didn’t have to worry about shelter.”

For people who are working their way towards stability, they worry this move could be a setback.

“This is a good opportunity to save up for 90 days, I can get a lot of things for my kid, and I can get a lot accomplished where I could get a hold of things where I can have my own,” Hunter said as he held his 8-month-old son.

Bhakta says he is open to renegotiation with the city to help the people who need to stay in his space for 90 days.

“The program’s success lies solely on people following through and actually helping out,” Bhakta said. “I’m fully open to still taking 40 rooms and seeing this process through. It was a very eye-opening experience.”

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