Initial funding is only the start for what is needed to open first-of-its-kind transitional housing apartments for homeless families throughout the region
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – River of Refuge, a local nonprofit aiding homeless families finding temporary shelter in motels, raised nearly $86,000 at its annual fundraising event last month. The money will benefit the campaign to open the city’s first-of-its-kind comprehensive transitional housing dedicated solely to homeless working families living in motels. The new apartments will offer free temporary refuge for working parents and their children in one single location.
“This is a pivotal time for homelessness in Kansas City,” said John Wiley, founder and president of River of Refuge. “We’ve been in the strategic planning stages at River of Refuge for the past couple of years all the while helping homeless working families living in motels find permanent homes one at a time. We’re proud of the more than 50 families we’ve been able to help along the way and the estimated 30 families we’ve found permanent housing for in the past three years.
“But now we’re ready to take our fundraising to the next level so we can help multiple families at one time! We hope to become a significant resource in the homelessness assistance nonprofit community in Kansas City and increase the number of families Kansas City can serve with the opening of our targeted transitional housing apartments.”
Through its data and research, River of Refuge estimates that as many as 300 to 400 working families are living in motels with their children throughout Greater Kansas City on any given night. It is a specific mission of River of Refuge to help working families get out of motels, teach them to live independently (operating on a budget they already earn at their jobs) and find permanent homes they can afford.
“Because there has been tremendous growth in family homelessness in the past several years due to the economic recession, there just simply aren’t enough beds available at family homeless shelters to serve the number of local families looking for shelter,” Wiley said. “We hope that when we open River of Refuge next year with the community’s help, we can help reduce the burden on the area’s family homeless shelters, which we know are already at capacity.”
River of Refuge intends to open a transitional family housing facility in the former Park Lane Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., to serve as a regional lodging complex for families. When it opens at 5155 Raytown Rd., the complex will provide a direct alternative to pay-by-the-week motels as well as offer a complete program for transition to self sufficiency including financial counseling and access to significant community resources needed to be successful in finding permanent housing. Until the first apartments are complete, the organization continues to place one family at a time through donations, referrals and volunteers.
The fundraiser on Sept. 21 was the second annual event for River of Refuge, and this year featured a performance by American Idol Star Danny Gokey, who has founded a similar non-profit in his hometown of Nashville. Sophia’s Heart, started by Gokey in Nashville in 2008, has been able to assist hundreds of homeless families find permanent homes in the Nashville area. Gokey intends to use his national fame to raise awareness for this tremendous problem in Nashville, Kansas City as well as nationwide.
The $86,000 raised at the gala will help fund the construction project for the River of Refuge transitional housing apartments. The total budget to open the facility is $475,000. The non-profit intends to kick off another fundraiser and awareness campaign this fall.
“We understand that many of these families are hard working people who simply want the best for their children,” Wiley said. “The reason they pay $800 or more in monthly rent and continue to run a household out of a one-room, run-down motel, is because they are trapped and have no other option. But they get up every day and go to work so their children can go to school and have a place to sleep at night.”
About River of Refuge
Wiley founded River of Refuge in 2009 after he witnessed a group of children loading a school bus from the parking lot of an old, run-down motel near his home in Raytown, Mo. River of Refuge was created to specifically address thousands of working families who have become trapped in pay-by-the-week motels throughout Greater Kansas City and into the suburbs. For more information, please visit www.riverofrefuge.com.