Kansas City: Homeless Camps Face Repression, Homeless Union Force Concessions from City

By Nélida Tello

Kansas City Homeless Union (KCHU) leadership and city officials came to tentative agreements after a two-month homeless occupation outside of city hall and community mobilizations to defend the encampment. Despite the negotiation between the two parties, homeless camps in other parts of the city continue to face police repression.

City officials attempted to evict the city hall camp twice before meeting with KCHU leadership. On April 5, after KCHU was notified for the second time that the encampment would be evicted, about 75 community members and activists gathered to defend against the eviction.

During the defense, activists from Kansas City Tenants (KCT), which has stood in solidarity with KCHU, spoke on the fact that the city spends millions on the police while people are living on the streets. Pointing to the nearby police headquarters, a KCT activist asked, “How are you gonna give $200 million to that building over there to buy chemical weapons to use on the people of this city, but can’t house the people that are over here on this lawn?”

The mobilization forced Mayor Quinton Lucas to meet with a KCHU leader during the event. Since then, KCHU leadership has met with city officials every day this week to discuss demands.

Mayor Quinton Lucas and KCHU leader speak at the April 5 rally outside of city hall

City officials and KCHU leadership finalized an agreement on April 8. KCHU agreed to end their occupation in exchange for the city attempting to meet their demands. In the short term, the city says it will provide designated camping areas and 500 hotel rooms for 90 days. The city also claims that it will provide long-term homes and job opportunities.

While KCHU has folded their encampment in favor of hotel rooms and designated camping areas, similar sites in other parts of the city continue to face police repression and eviction threats. Kansas City Police Department threatened ‘Camp 6ixx’ in Westport with eviction if they did not vacate and use the hotel option in the agreement between KCHU and the city. There are over 1,000 homeless people in Kansas City and only 500 hotel rooms have been approved by the agreement.

The halting of the eviction and successive meetings with city officials were a direct result of activists and community members fighting to defend the occupation on the ground. The city has been forced into concessions for the time being, but only active and combative struggle will defend any gains and push further demands.

As the city attempts to stop homeless people from organizing by providing temporary and insufficient solutions to their problems, the struggle for daily demands must continue and any concessions used to strengthen the fight for a new society. This becomes evident as the city has not stopped evicting other camps.

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