Making a Great City Speaker Series Tackles Root Cause of Homelessness

Monday, April 8, 2024
graphic for making a great city

According to Project Homeless Connect, about 1,700 unhoused people live in Kansas City. But that’s only a snapshot from a point-in-time count in 2021.

On any given day at each of the Library’s locations, the crisis is evident. The Community Resources staff members at Central Library assist 600 to 700 unhoused people each month.

The Library offers a wide range of community resources for the unhoused, from Street Sheets (in English and Spanish), that can be picked up at any Library location, to support for life challenges.

Visit the 3N Resource Center on the 3rd floor of Central Library for any of the following:

  • Order birth certificates
  • Hygiene items
  • Limited clothing
  • Help applying for rental and utility assistance
  • Monthly Coffee & Conversation sessions where a representative from a service agency comes to talk about their services to our houseless patrons
  • Help with health and wellness issues
  • Civic concerns (applying to vote)
  • Building a business or non-profit
  • Career development
  • Senior services

Author Gregg Colburn has spent years investigating the issue and, out of a concern that causes have been misdiagnosed, wrote a book. He discusses Homelessness is a Housing Problem: How Structural Factors Explain U.S. Patterns at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Central Library as part of the Library’s Making a Great City Series.

Colburn is an associate professor of real estate at the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments. He co-authored the book with Clayton Page Aldern, a Seattle-based neuroscientist turned journalist and data scientist.

The two researched possible root causes like poverty, substance abuse, lack of will, living off public benefits, race, and even weather. The answers they found altered their long-held assumptions, like that the poorest cities have the highest rate of homelessness – they do not.

Colburn and Aldern conclude that the issues leading to chronic houselessness are structural rather than any particular action – or lack of action – taken by an individual.

This conversation at the Library comes at a critical time for the Kansas City metro area. For two years in a row, Kansas City has held a dubious distinction – the city with the highest percentage of individuals experiencing chronic patterns of unsheltered homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines this as being homeless for a year due to a disabling condition or repeatedly houseless over four years.

RSVP here to attend the event.