In the battle to end homelessness, Kansas City is working to help those in need get shelter when Old Man Winter rears his ugly head. Josh Henges is the Homeless Prevention Coordinator for Kansas City. He told Missourinet that this isn’t a new plan, but it takes time to get right.

“We needed more coverage,” Henges said. “We needed more beds, and we needed more geographic area covered in Kansas City so that we can meet the need a bit better. We know that there are large concentrations of homeless individuals. We want to make sure that we have beds there, but we also wanted to make sure that we have beds available in different parts of the city as well as beds specific to families and gender-specific beds as well.”

It makes up step five of Kansas City’s Zero KC plan to end homelessness – a repeatable extreme weather plan. Other priority projects include engaging with neighborhoods and business communities. It also increases cross-system collaboration.

“The investment is absolutely worth it and it’s key to remember in doing this is that the problem doesn’t just solve itself,” Henges said. “That’s not how it works. You’ve got to invest in it, and you’ve got to be really smart and savvy with how you invest in it.”

The city’s cold weather season has varying phases, including a plan for when the temperature is below 32 degrees, one for when it gets below 25 degrees, and one for sub-zero temperatures.

But Henges makes clear, it’s not just about solving homelessness, it’s about ending it.

“We often see folks try and make homelessness comfortable,” he said. “That’s not a thing. It just doesn’t exist. The goal has to be to end it. What you get with a cold weather shelter is in extreme temperatures, people that ordinarily wouldn’t come in and get services, those are the folks that you’re going to find.”

The city’s cold weather season runs from November 1 through April 1. That’s where Henges works to help people find shelter and aid when the cold weather strikes and connect them with area agencies to find permanent housing moving forward.

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