Open letter to Sly James, mayor of Kansas City
I have become very concerned about the direction that Kansas City, my hometown, is heading under the leadership of Sly James. It is a very expensive mistake that is more about “image” than really building up the city. Streetcars, over priced lofts and even a new airport terminal is not going to change the lives of the people of Kansas City.
It appears that Sly James is completely out of touch with reality. I am sure that there are some people that lives are that plastic but most of the residents in the city are faced with trying to live above the food stamp level; not if they are in the top five percent of tax payers. Much of the community, especially in the urban core need real solutions to the problems they face. I am sorry but another streetcar is not going to address their poverty.
However, I want to focus this letter on one focused issue. It has came to my attention that the community, the city, and the church are doing far too little for the homeless population. While you could point to shelters such as City Union Mission or Kansas City Rescue Mission; the truth is very little is being done to actually bring a solution.
The homeless are told to be move around downtown and just basically migrate in circles during the day. There is a few places that are giving out meals so the business community to move in the area while the homeless is out of sight and out of mind. It seems that everyone, including you, has no real solution to the homeless man and the businessman co-existing in the community.
It is the time for the city to get serious about fixing the problem, forcing some solutions and transforming the people of Kansas City that are on the bottom end of society. One thing that we can not do as people of Kansas City is keep doing what we have for so long. It goes against the very fiber of our culture and our concern for fellow Americans.
I have saw with my own eyes the pain that many have caused this forgotten group. It is someone sad to report and some of the disrespect I have witnessed when working with the homeless in Kansas City has been at the hands of the police. It seems to be assumed that being homeless means that you must be a drug addict, drunk, or criminal. The truth is most people with addictions are businessmen that have more than enough money to afford their need for drugs and alcohol.
It is much more realistic to see the homeless as people who had a curve ball thrown at them. Divorce, death of a spouse, PTSD, and company closures are much more commonly the cause of someone becoming homeless than being the town drunk. Many of the homeless people in this city has laid down their lives for the country and others are people with degrees that are no longer marketable.
As a spiritual leader, I want to lay out some common sense solutions to make sizable changes to the growing homeless problem in Kansas City. This is just a start but I believe it would get the ball rolling.
First of all, Kansas City has a mental health crisis. Swope Health and Truman Medical Center, the two main providers for the poor in Kansas City, are based up several months. This is not acceptable. We want to talk about ending public shootings but we do not want to address the mental health issue? Better care for those having traumatic experiences will bring an end to them much faster than trying to gut the second amendment. It is reasonable to believe that the homeless need better mental health so we don’t end up with something like we saw in Las Vegas.
Secondly, there needs community awareness. I am not talking people knowing there is homelessness. I am talking about making the homeless part of the discussion about homelessness. Making common sense solution start with actually engaging the people affected by the problem. Too many times, the dialog starts with those who profit from the problem more than those who actually face it. I highly suggest it is time for a closed door townhall meeting with the homeless to hear their stories.
Thirdly, Kansas City has a taxation problem. It is no secret that the cost of living is rising in the city. Those who are on the lower end of the economical ladder are always the ones that feel it the most. With sales tax sitting at almost 11%, a homeless man trying to make it out of his position is getting raped by the very government that represents him for over a tenth of his income. If one of them makes $1,000 a month, they are not seeing over $100 of that. It might seem minor but that represents a lot of money to a man in a traumatic position in life. It is reasonable to consider a reimbursement program for sales tax for people that have proved homelessness in Kansas City.
Lastly, the city should have an actual plan to employ people who end up in the homeless shelters like City Union Mission. There is no reason that the city can not have a homeless first policy for labor based opening for the city government. Our park department needs general laborers to work and our shelters are full of them. Kansas City could also give a reduction in taxation for business that hire homeless people.
I will end this letter to Sly James with saying that as the mayor, he has the ability to start a public discussion about our corner of American society views the people who are known as the homeless community. There is very few people in the city that could force the dialog to begin that the mayor of the city. The question is not can you start it but will you?