What’s next for people using Bartle Hall’s emergency shelter? Some say the answer is difficult

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to Mayor Quinton Lucas, at the end of the month, Kansas City will no longer utilize the Kansas City Convention Center’s Bartle Hall as an emergency homeless shelter.

Community members, in partnership with the city, opened Bartle Hall in January as an emergency warming center for area homeless.

“We have a few different things I think we are announcing in the next couple weeks. One, there are two different hotel opportunities, in addition to one current hotel opportunity,” Lucas said when asked what’s next during a press conference.

City officials said they’re working with local shelters and homeless programs to make sure everyone has safe place once Bartle Hall’s doors close. They’re exploring the use of hotels and other opportunities, including transportation and medication.

The group that’s currently running the site is reportedly working to relocate back to Garrison Community Center as a temporary shelter.

Each night, more than 150 people are staying at the convention center. Daily, lines of people wait hours for the doors to reopen at 6 p.m.

“The need is so great,” Lee Harris said. “I have been homeless for four years. It’s a new brand of homeless people, people who have never been homeless before.”

But the use of Bartle Hall hasn’t eliminated people living on the streets. New homeless camps continue to form.

“We don’t care about a warming center. People go there, but we want a home. That’s a distraction,” said Qadhafi with the KC Homeless Union.

He’s part of a group camped outside City Hall. Their tents have been a fixture on the front lawn and steps for weeks.

“They are not trying to deal with us, and they are not trying to deal with this crisis situation,” Qadhafi said. “We [are] occupying this until they do something. We come to make a point. Everyone is doing things in the name of homeless people, and the stuff they are doing, they are not consulting with us.”

Qadhafi said the group represents all the people without homes in Kansas City, and he said he and others living on the street are looking for understanding and communication. He said the problem is much deeper than Bartle Hall.

Area shelters say they’re still operating with some capacity limits but are open and ready to accept people who actually want help.

“What we absolutely will not do is just have a transition where we tell everybody, you have to get out, there’s no solution,” Lucas said.

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