Botwin presentation addresses concerns on transition housing

Botwin presentation addresses concerns on transition housing

By the WPHA staff

A detailed explanation of a federally funded project to house single young adults who have aged out of foster care seemed to ease concerns and promote acceptance for a 14-unit apartment building at 7540 Washington street.

Diane Botwin, a long-time local developer, has teamed up with several agencies to bring the $2.2 million project to Waldo. But an initial lack of information about the project caused an uproar of protest, prompting Botwin’s appearance at the Waldo Tower Homes Association neighborhood meeting on March 14 at the Waldo Library.

Most area residents were not aware of the project until January, when they saw a sign at the site announcing the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for apartments owned by reStart Housing Services, Inc.
A vocal minority complained to local print and broadcast media that the project would hurt property values, prompt residents to move and change the character of the Waldo neighborhood.

Even some supporting the project were disappointed by a lack of transparency. Botwin apologized for any confusion, though it was claimed that the project was not certain to move forward until HUD funding was assured in November.
The project is in response to the predicament in which those between the ages of 18 and 24 find themselves once they leave their foster homes.

More than 800 young adults aged out of foster care in Jackson County in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available. Nationally, it is projected that one in five in that category will become homeless after age 18. Only 58 percent graduate from high school by age 19. Within two years of being aged out, one in four is involved in the criminal justice system. By age 24, half is unemployed.

Clearly, the 14 units in Waldo, which will be ready in the fall, will only meet the critical needs for a small segment of this at-risk population. Residents will be professionally screened, have a case manager and social services support network, and be required to be in school, working, seeking employment or volunteering in the community.

Under HUD regulations, residents will pay no more in rent than 30 percent of their income or college Pell grants.

Discussions for this project began in 2009 and Waldo emerged as the most practical location. Botwin owned the property and is a long-time volunteer for reStart, a Kansas City interfaith ministry to the homeless. When she learned that HUD had funding for transitional housing, she worked with reStart to begin the project, She now serves as its community liaison.

The Washington location offers easy access to major bus lines, food and drug stores and the Waldo library branch. State Representative Jeremy LaFaver and City Councilman John Sharp, whose districts include Waldo, both voiced support for the project. Sharp pointed out that no public hearings were required by the city because no rezoning was needed.

Project representatives took questions from a largely supportive audience, which raised the main issues that have swirled around the apartments.

The biggest issue involved crime prevention with at-risk young adults. One partner, ReDiscover, is a community mental health agency that helps those affected by serious mental illness and substance abuse.

Jean Schweer of ReDiscover said the agency has been involved with supportive housing for 10 years with few crime issues. It also was noted that a staff member will live in one unit and be on site 24 hours a day. Project managers will be charged with checking that all residents are involved in work or school.

Tobacco and alcohol will not be allowed. Visitors must sign in and cannot stay. Security measures will include cameras and key-fob access.

A website is being set up to allow public contact will those overseeing the project, including the resident manager. It also will include information about starting a mentorship program.

Waldo Tower Homes Association secretary Elizabeth Hollins contributed to this story

Spring fun in the air for all our residents

By Jon Rand

Whether you’re selling, socializing or celebrating, the Ward Parkway Homes Association has an event to suit your needs this spring. From Neighborhood Night Out to the Fourth of July picnic are several chances for the entire family to eat and meet with old friends and neighbors, as well as make new ones.

The combination of enthusiastic neighbors and enhanced promotion led to record attendance at key events a year ago and this year we expect the crowds will grow even more.

Neighborhood Night Out, our annual open house, will be held Saturday, April 18 from 5-7 p.m. on the lower level of the District.Pour House+Kitchen at 7122 Wornall Road.

This event, open to all WPHA residents, features good food and drink, camaraderie and door prizes, including tickets and gear from the Kansas City Royals.

The annual Easter Egg Hunt will be staged Sunday, March 29 at 2 p.m. at Ward Parkway Presbyterian Church. The four-and-under and older children will hunt in separate shifts.

For those who are passionate about de-cluttering or picking up some extra cash, our annual garage sales will be held the weekend of May 15-16. The sales are traditionally well attended and will be advertised in the Kansas City Star, on Craigslist and on yard signs at highly visible locations.

Our biannual Garden Tour, a huge hit in 2013, will be held in mid-June. Some of our expert gardeners will show off their plants, flowers and landscaping and serve free refreshments.

Climaxing our busy spring schedule will be the annual Fourth of July picnic, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 at Hale Cook School on 73rd Street between Jefferson and Pennsylvania. Sluggerr, the Royals’ mascot, will return as a special guest to lead the youngsters in the traditional bicycle parade and entertain with his delightful antics.

There will be prizes for the best decorated bikes, as well as a raffle for all ages. The picnic also will feature games, face painting and the usual hosing down by the Kansas City Fire Department.

WPHA will provide grilled brisket from McGonigle’s Market, hot dogs, condiments and bottled water. Neighbors are invited to bring side dishes.