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St. Mary's gated parking lot. Photo: Dwight Widaman.

Church opens up parking lot to vehicles of homeless drivers

A downtown Kansas City church is opening up its parking lot in the overnight hours to the homeless.  It’s thought to be the first time the homeless have a dedicated parking lot.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, located at 13th and Charlotte streets, will allow parking in the overnight hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Some homeless individuals still maintain automobiles though they may have lost the ability to provide shelter from themselves. It is not clear if they can afford the necessary insurance for the vehicles to operate legally on the streets or if they have proper tags and licenses, however.

This is an asset that we have, this parking lot,” Rev. Charles Everson, of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, said. “And it’s not being used during the time frames that we’re talking about, so why not put it to use for this purpose?”

According to Everson, people who would like to use the parking area must apply through Merging KC or be referred by one of the county’s or city’s caseworkers.

“The folks that we are inviting to park here and sleep are already in a situation where they’re working with some sort of a caseworker and they’re already receiving services of various levels from different organizations,” Everson said.

The lot has “parking arms,” according to Everson, and people will have a code to get into the area.

It is not clear if the church would be responsible for damage to property or other vehicles caused by uninsured drivers.

Merging KC works to end homelessness in Kansas city and coordinates with officials to provide toilet facilities in the form of port-a-potties. Its website states it is “Kansas City’s premier group focused on bridging the gap and creating the ultimate collaboration to end homelessness and restore the green spaces in the community.”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice