By Tyler Schneider
Of all the recurring narratives in Kansas City in recent years, housing and houselessness has remained at the forefront of discussion amongst citizens, elected representatives, media organizations, and third party organizations such as Holmeswood Baptist Church.
For his part, Holmeswood Senior Pastor Rev. David McDaniel has elected to open a new year of Sunday services with a new speaker series—titled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”—which will address the issue of houselessness and housing insecurity in Kansas City over the course of three sessions: Jan. 23, Jan. 30, and Feb. 6.
“As a church, what we try to do is to say, ‘our bible study cannot just stay here at Holmeswood’,” McDaniel said. “The city can’t do this all by themselves. Churches and nonprofits cannot solve this on their own either. We have to come together and work with one another to bring our resources together for the betterment of everybody in Kansas City.”
The first session will bring City Manager Brian Platt onboard to discuss KC’s housing crisis. Platt will have an hour’s time to address the issue starting at 9 a.m., Jan. 23, after which he will have five minutes to prelude the 10:15 worship service for those who did not attend the first session.
McDaniel’s subsequent sermon will then expand on the issues presented “from a theological perspective”.
“[The city government] has been looking at different kinds of models to increase housing within KC. One of the things I found was that while people are generally agreeable on the issue, the vast majority of people will say, ‘but not in my backyard.’ If everyone is saying that, we will never get to a place where we get anywhere with any of this,” McDaniel said.
The format will remain the same for the following two Sundays, which will be made available via stream on both Facebook Live and YouTube Live as well as in person. All speakers will begin at 9 a.m. at 9700 Holmes Road and will be available for about 15 minutes of questions afterwards.
City Councilwoman Andrea Bough will hold down the next session, Jan. 30, with a discussion on “Tenants’ Right to Counsel,” an issue where McDaniel sees an alarming disparity in equity between landlords and renters.
“Ninety percent of landlords are represented by counsel in court versus under ten percent of renters. What we want to do here is just to slow things down with the eviction process. This helps the system figure out how we can best tackle the issues and keep people in stable situations,” McDaniel said.
On Feb. 6, an even more robust program will be led by the U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough, Dion Sankar of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, and DeJ’on Slaughter of Turner Construction discussing their “Re-Entry Program.”
“This program is for people who have significant substance abuse needs or other underlying issues of that nature. What the reentry court is doing is finding businesses—like Turner Construction—who are willing to help funnel people towards places of employment in a healthier kind of way. You’re learning a skill, learning a trade, and you’re employed,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel hopes these sessions will promote ground-up discussions amongst KC residents and, ideally, begin to chip away at the apathy-laced ‘not in my backyard’ perspective.
“Not only are the speakers going to talk about their topics, they’re also going to address what each person can do about it. Whether it’s an individual who attends the congregation or a neighborhood group, the goal is to move it from policy directly to engage citizens directly,” McDaniel said.