For Kansas City homeless, City Union Mission can be a starting point for recovery

Jim Cunningham
November 17, 2017 - 4:57 am

They're seen on the street corners, cardboard signs in their in hands. People may ask, how did the homeless people get there? Why don't they seek help?

One such person is Heather, 54. She was married for 23 years before she was widowed in 2005. Heather used to have two jobs before she was injured at work, which left her disabled and unable to work long hours.

"I started self-medicating and then I got in trouble with the police," Heather said. 

After two stints in rehab for alcohol addiction, Heather had nowhere to go. In May, she spent two weeks at the City Union Mission, but then left. A few months later, an emergency room visit led her back.

"Right before I walked in there, I said I've lost my will and I don't know what to do; will you help me?" Heather said, tears welling in her eyes. "After they got my blood pressure down, they gave me a taxi voucher to the City Union Mission, and I said, God, I get it, I'm listening to you."

Heather says it was pride that kept her from turning to her family when she was homeless and at her lowest.

For now, she has a place to lay her head, and that gives her hope.

Dan Doty has worked at the Mission for almost 40 years.

"I would drive around Kansas City and see these groups of people, or people on the corners," Dan recalls. "My first thought was, what are they doing there? Why aren't they working?

"Then I would drive to the mission and find people that used to be out there on the corners that were really getting their lives together."

For Phillip Stoeppelwerth, 47, it was a broken relationship that led him to the streets. 

"We had some irreconcilable differences," Phillip said. 

Addictions and mental illness are what keep most people from seeking assistance from a shelter or agency willing to help, Phillip said. Many are in denial, are embarrassed about their circumstances, or may just want their freedom. 

"I lived in my car for a while," Phillip said. "It wasn't all that difficult, but actually being on the streets, and living under a bridge, it's not safe, especially with the violence that goes around here."

At last count there were more than 1,600 homeless people in Kansas City. Some move in and out of shelters. 


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