by Major Xavier Montenegro
Kansas City Area Commander
Over the last year the Kansas City Area Command has been taking concerted steps to address homelessness in its city. To discuss circumstances and take effective action, The Salvation Army and the Kansas City Government brought together 65 people representing non-profits, businesses and governmental agencies.
To accelerate the collaboration and amplify the impact, the Kansas City Command, then led by Major Toni Dorrell, contracted with GoodCities, which seeks “to discover, support, and serve vibrant city movements by building processes that create good cities.” Kansas City is the first place in the Central Territory to partner with this organization.
GoodCities sent two coaches, Reggie McNeal and Glenn Barth, each with many years of ministry and mission experience, to kickstart the united effort. Arriving in Kansas City, they found strategic thinking already had taken place by a smaller task force formed earlier by the city government. After two years researching homelessness in the city, that group unveiled a plan in September 2022 called Zero KC which identified five priorities:
1. Promote health, safety and quality of life in encampments, and re-house those living without shelter.
2. Expand affordable housing and prioritize housing stability.
3. Invest in equitable, evidence-based housing solutions and comprehensive services.
4. Address the needs of marginalized and underserved groups.
5. Optimize funding and use creative solutions.
In January 2023, the time was right for a collaborative effort to take shape.
Reggie and Glenn led three twoday sessions over the course of the last year to provide direction and momentum to a diverse group, including The Salvation Army, so it could take concrete action from the Zero KC plan.
Task groups, created for each of the five priorities, identified goals and specific steps that could be taken. Each task group then presented their plan to the entire group and received feedback. Incremental steps were taken in a positive direction.
What started as a loose collection of 65 people transformed into a cohesive group, working together to make an impact against homelessness. It was a highlight to hear what other groups had been working on which, in turn, spurred the collective group to keep moving forward.
Plans and actions took shape much quicker and more cohesively than originally expected, and over the course of a few months real impact was felt.
Memorandums of understanding were created between agencies working on street outreach to facilitate collaboration and better meet the needs of individuals needing food and casework services. One task group created a cold weather plan that brought together various agencies in a united effort to keep people warm and safe during the winter months. A draft charter was developed to further cement the relationship of the various agencies and individuals.
Even though the work with GoodCities has concluded, the drive to end homelessness in Kansas City has only begun. There is a clear sense of momentum among the participants and motivation not to let it die. Periodic meetings have been scheduled through February, and an executive leadership team was created to help facilitate the next steps. The Kansas City Area Command will continue to stand as a leader in these collaborative efforts.