Case management supervisor Jonathan Reavis listens to the challenges of a guest.
Guests are assisted in the case management tent.
Social work practicum students Kora Wilkes and Kim Wagner assist a guest.
Case management supervisor Jonathan Reavis problem solves with Veterans Community Project case managers (L-R, Sean Anderson, Wes Williams, Erin Ressegieu)
Case management supervisor Jonathan Reavis and director of case management Alfredo Palacol.
Since 2004, Hope Faith has passionately strived to meet the needs of Kansas City’s homeless and vulnerable community members.
Hope Faith humbly started off by serving sack lunches in the Westport neighborhood. We have grown steadily over the years, providing clothing and other essential items, and eventually evolving to a 47,000 square foot collaborative daytime facility located at 705 Virginia Avenue, just east of downtown Kansas City — our Homeless Assistance Campus.
On a given day, Hope Faith has the capacity to have over 250 unduplicated guests visit, serve upwards of 500 meals a day, and provide access to life-sustaining services and critical programs.
When COVID-19 surfaced and Kansas City went into lockdown, our frontline team was committed to staying open and ensuring that people experiencing homelessness and the most vulnerable in the community didn’t become more vulnerable.
Being designated by the city of KCMO as the homeless emergency response center and working with community partners and organizations such as Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness (GKCCEH), Veterans Community Project, ReStart, Heart to Heart International, Operation BBQ Relief, the Kansas City Public Library, and The Rieger, Hope Faith was able to move its entire indoor operation outdoors and create a homeless resource village, a critical component of the community COVID-19 response.
As agencies suspended services, the resource village at Hope Faith provided a safety net and a coordinated response to an unknown virus and uncertain days to come.
Since late March, the resource village has seen over 2000 unduplicated individuals experiencing homelessness, housing instability, or who are at-risk and vulnerable. We have served or distributed over 450 meals daily. Access to essential services and products, such as showers, hygiene items, mail service, telephone, and internet, were and continue to be free, vital resources that we provide to our clients.
A partnership with Heart to Heart International and dedicated medical volunteers helped shore up access to urgent care needs, and collaboration with Care Beyond the Boulevard ensured that there was preliminary emergency medical response to COVID-19 should an outbreak occur within the homeless community.
Early in the pandemic, before masks became mandated, we distributed masks to guests alongside the most current CDC and health expert guidance available and required usage for all persons at the resource village.
Providing information and reason helped develop protective behaviors within the homeless community that were accepted much sooner than the broader community. One could often see individuals experiencing homelessness walking the streets with masks on more often than you would see on customers at large retail operations.
Establishing an outdoor resource village, developing and coordinating a medical response, distributing information and masks, and working collectively with urgency and decisiveness early on may have halted any serious outbreaks in the homeless community, as there were few isolated positive cases.
But, we are now half a year into the pandemic response that we had planned only to last through March and April, and the holes and cracks in our systems are now apparent.
We have long known that, in order for individuals to thrive, they must have access to critical, social determinants of health such as quality health care, affordable housing, and stable employment.
The pandemic efficiently highlighted the fact that these are not evenly within reach to all.
When Kansas City went into lockdown and the city retreated indoors, we could clearly see our homeless community out in the open, a visible reminder of those who had fallen through the cracks.
As Hope Faith’s director of case management, I’ve had the honor of being able to work alongside a small team of colleagues and community partners that, when COVID-19 pandemic slowed Kansas City to a near stop, put on our masks and have never stepped back.
We met clients directly and built rapport; we engaged with clients with behavioral and substance use issues; we de-escalated and problem solved with few resources to refer clients to; we tried to establish identities and benefits while the social security office and DMV were closed.
Mostly we tried to alleviate immediate suffering and plan a course for a more hopeful horizon of being housed, employed, and in better state of well-being for when coronavirus might have passed. It obviously still hasn’t.
Instead we are bracing for a wave of new people entering the homeless system of services as the economic impact and the unmitigated coronavirus spread undermines the systems that keep the community vibrant and individuals resilient.
Increasingly, I’m hearing from households on the brink of homelessness due to loss of employment, serious illness, and the inability to afford rent. I’ve also experienced an uptick in calls from community members wanting to be tested because they have symptoms or have come into contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive.
Not all is lost though. I see a silver lining. Amidst the turmoil, homeless service agencies and providers are collaborating more deeply, and systems are being transformed. Homelessness was an emerging epidemic and public health crisis.
The pandemic has shown us the weaknesses that we in this sector knew were there. Now they are out in the open for the public to see. And what we see, we can overcome together..
Our resource village now has direct service providers from GKCCEH, Truman ACO, ReStart Outreach, Rediscover/KC-ATC, Care Beyond the Boulevard, while our Hope Faith case management team is working toward solutions that will have a ripple effect on the broader system. We are all working collaboratively to use data and best practices from other communities to re-imagine Kansas City as a model for responding to homelessness and poverty. This includes leveraging technology, developing a community standard for case management excellence, and centering the experience of our clients at the heart of our work.
It is not only the collective will of homeless services providers, but an intentional partnership with city government, the private/commercial sector, and the Kansas City community that will illuminate the way forward.
It is from this collaboration that leaders are emerging that are looking to permanently patch these rifts in the system and, working as a community, we can be hopeful of weathering this pandemic and being more resilient when it passes.
Alfredo is the director of case management at Hope Faith. He would like to remind you that wearing a mask is a simple act that can save lives. You can connect with Hope Faith on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Editor’s note: This post is part of a blog series that shares the impact of the pandemic on our grantees and community partners. If you would like to share your story, please find out more here.
Read how these community partners have responded to the pandemic:
- Healing House
- Sheffield Place
- Center for Practical Bioethics
- Center for Developmentally Disabled
- Sunflower House
- Care Beyond the Boulevard
- Hope Faith
- Seton Center