KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Homeless shelters and resource centers face the greatest need they’ve seen in over a decade. Nearly 40 million American families are at risk of eviction.
“We need to keep people from entering the system because we can not handle them,” said Stephanie Boyer, CEO of ReStart.
ReStart is one of the few options families have for emergency shelter in Kansas City. Boyer said the calls for help have tripled in the past six months.
About a dozen organizations, like ReStart, dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness applied for funds through the Emergency Solution Grant COVID-19 (ESG-CV) supplied by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Boyer said her organization received 26 percent of their ask for shelter services.
“We are frustrated. My team is frustrated. This has been hard,” Boyer said. “It’s hard every single day to turn people away and not have an option for them. It’s extremely difficult.”
ReStart hoped to expand its family rooms. Boyer said the $72,000 it received from the ESG-CV grant is enough to help keep an employment specialist on staff, but not enough to bring more people in.
The director of Neighborhood and Housing Services, John A. Wood, is responsible for issuing contracts to the organizations that submitted proposals. The department had $5,048,969 to divide among the contracts. Wood told KCTV5 he received $7.9 million in requests.
“It’s always a tough decision, it’s a tough process,” Wood said.
The City Council approved $3,024,000 to go to 13 housing services organizations on October 21.
Wood said the department scored proposals based on criteria from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said while few organizations got each of their requests fully funded, the needs of the community, such as rapid rehousing, emergency shelters and homelessness prevention, were addressed. Wood said an organization’s experience and ability to implement programs quickly factored into which programs the department funded.
Wood told KCTV5 the remaining approximately $1.5 million is going to turning the vacant Wendell Phillips School into a temporary cold weather shelter. The funds will allow the city to make improvements to the building and provide social services at the school, located at 24th and Vine.
Boyer said she turned to asking private donors and community foundations for unrestricted money. The Kansas City COVID-19 Response and Recovery fund granted ReStart $75,000 in April. Boyer said she may be able double the bed space with the donations.
“It’s still not going to come close. Even if I can increase my family rooms to 15 or 20 and there’s 150 families that called, I’m still obviously not meeting that need,” Boyer said. “But being able to essentially double what we have currently is going to have some level of impact.”
The community funds had a seemingly greater impact on organizations like Shelter KC.
“Especially in the beginning, it just kept us open. And that’s one of the best things, through all of this we have been able to continue to stay open,” said Executive Director of Shelter KC Eric Burger.
Burger said Shelter KC did not apply for ESG-CV funds but was happy to receive them through the community. He said their shelter services had to make changes to keep clients from contracting COVID-19.
“The critical need is to make sure we help them with physical needs, but also to make sure they’re not isolated and lost out there,” Burger said. “How do we do that in a safe way, is the challenge.”
He said in the winter months, approaching the holidays, donations mean more.
“The generosity of people who are still taking care of others even though they might be not as strong as they’ve been in the past is just a tribute to this community,” Burger said.
Shelter KC will deliver boxed Thanksgiving meals to more than 250 families in the Kansas City area November 21.