KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A woman woke up Wednesday morning after sleeping on a Kansas City sidewalk in frigid temperatures near a homeless shelter. She had a blanket but was blanketed in a layer of snow as the thermometer dipped to 15 degrees, The Kansas City Star reported.
Eliah, 27, told the newspaper that her fingers to her elbows were frozen after 4 inches of snow fell in the Missouri city.
Doug Langner, executive director of Hope Faith, approached the day shelter at 6 a.m. and thought the woman was dead, the newspaper reported.
“There was no movement and she literally was on the sidewalk with a blanket over her,” Langner told The Star.
About a dozen other people were lined up outside waiting for the homeless shelter to open its doors, the newspaper reported.
“We got her in, we got her fed, we got her showered,” Langner told KSHB-TV. “The fact of the matter is things are tight, and the way we help those who are homeless is people!”
The number of people seeking help from Hope Faith has nearly doubled since January 2021, officials told The Star. Many walk into the shelter multiple times a day, which led to about 2,600 visits at the beginning of last year. As of January 2022, the number of visits rose to 4,459, the newspaper reported.
The easing of COVID-19 protocols has helped boost the number of visits, but Langner said there are simply more people in need.
“We have received some funding, but I would not say that it has been enough to keep up with the increase in those seeking assistance,” Cristi Smith, director of operations at Hope Faith, told The Star.
Grants have helped pay for food, coats and gloves but have not covered the costs of paying employees who keep the shelter running.
“Everybody wants to pay for the food, but nobody wants to pay for the chef or the cooks,” Langner told the newspaper. “What I’m telling staff and the city and anyone who will listen: We have a responsibility … If people can make it through the night, they can come during the day to get services.”
Despite wanting to stay at Hope Faith, Eliah will have to find another shelter as temperatures likely dip into the single digits, The Star reported. Langner said he planned to connect her with a case manager that would help find a place for her to stay.
Eliah said she just wants a place to stay overnight.
“I don’t have anywhere to go … It’s like I don’t even exist and no one cares for me,” she told the newspaper. “And that’s a scary feeling … So I guess I’m just going to be walking.”