The City Union Mission Perspective on Homelessness

Today my wife, Rita, and I attended a luncheon honoring three women who have changed the heart of Kansas City. The luncheon was actually called "Women Who've Changed the Heart of the City," and it is an annual luncheon that serves as a benefit for City Union Mission, an organization that addresses homelessness in the Kansas City area. The three women honored were Jane Chu, who currently serves as the president and CEO of the new Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts; Laura R. Hockaday, who in a 38-year career with The Kansas City Star expanded the role of the society page of the Star to include, well, all of society including those from diverse cultural backgrounds; and Dr. Sharon Lee, the founder and director of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care Services of Greater Kansas City. These are three amazing and gifted women!

Homelessness is a word that is very disturbing to many people and all kinds of assumptions enter into one's head about homelessness and what causes it. City Union Mission raises all of its funding without any government assistance. They have a men's shelter, a camp for underprivileged boys and girls, and most recently have added programs and services to uplift homeless women and children. What daunting, yet fulfilling, work! 

In listening to Dan Doty, the executive director of City Union Mission, speak about homelessness, I would like to help dispel some of the myths about homelessness. The condition of homelessness, in and of itself, is a risk factor for an emotional disorder. It is a psychological trauma for individuals where sudden social isolation and learned helplessness (thinking there is nothing one can do to make effective change) dominate the landscape. There is also a motivational problem for those who find themselves homeless, and sometimes homeless individuals conclude that they are not capable of making improvements in their own lives.

The staff at City Union Mission has another take on it. They assume that people are doing the best that they can but that they do want to improve their lives. Very often people may not have caused all of their problems – but they do have to begin to solve them anyway. City Union Mission is a change agent, meaning they balance support with challenge. People need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change. The loss of a job, serious mental illness, prison discharge, and escaping domestic violence are major contributing factors to homelessness.

Of course, alcohol and/or drug addiction can contribute as well, but it is a misnomer to attribute homelessness exclusively to alcohol or drug addiction. At the luncheon, a young lady with two children spoke in front of over 700 people about her journey in and out of homelessness – and she had no alcohol or drug problem. She needed support and guidance and that is what she found at City Union Mission.

The co-chairs of the luncheon were Dayton and Marianne Moore (Go Royals!) and they both bring great passion and zeal to being part of the solution. What great civic leaders they are to co-chair this event. If someone is looking for a charitable organization that puts its heart on the line everyday, 24/7, then City Union Mission is an organization you should support. What can be more compassionate than an organization that looks out for some of the most vulnerable people in the Kansas City community? When people are given hope, they respond. God's Blessings to City Union Mission!