Social Service Providers in Independence, MO Explore Affordable Housing and Homelessness Solutions at Annual Summit

Social services providers from across Independence and eastern Jackson County, MO gathered for their third annual summit on May 9, organized under the theme of “working together for collective impact.” Social Service Summit organizers brought together agencies and organizations that support residents as homeless assistance counselors, housing and supportive service providers, healthcare providers, mental health practitioners, and job training and employment counselors. One-hundred and sixty people attended the event, learning from fellow advocates and service providers and brainstorming ways to create new partnerships.

The Social Service Summit was hosted by the Community Service League of Independence and the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, an NLIHC member organization. Summit speakers included Zach Walker, Independence city manager; AJ Bockelman, assistant director of Empower Missouri, an NLIHC state partner; Traci Gleason, director of communications at the Missouri Budget Project; and James Saucedo, NLIHC housing advocacy organizer. The combination of presenters fulfilled the intent of event organizers to incorporate local, state, and national perspectives and solutions for addressing housing, homelessness, and other challenges facing low income people in Independence.

“The community of Independence works constantly and consistently to assess and understand the needs of all of its citizens,” said Empower Missouri’s Vickie L. Riddle, who served on the summit planning committee. “It’s a wonderful example of best practices writ large. We are grateful for their engagement within our Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness and our HUD Continuum of Care.”

Social Service Summit Co-Chair Sarah Schoefield Wimberley noted that many among Independence’s social service agencies had not considered what it could mean for their organizations to work collaboratively together, to create the best possible outcomes for their clients and their shared interests. Ms. Schoefield Wimberley said that she was especially interested in sharing with attendees where program funding at all levels of government comes from, where it might be threatened in today’s political environment, and what agencies can do to protect it. She shared that an attendee from Episcopal Community Services (ECS) and another from the Community Services League (CSL) met for the first time at this year’s summit. The two soon realized that they serve many of the same clients through ECS’s meals programs and CSL’s job training program. As a result the summit, the two now plan to formally collaborate later this year.

Social Service Summit Co-Chair and Community Services League President & CEO Doug Cowen said that a summit highlight was including a national perspective on housing and homelessness issues for the first time this year. “Hearing from James Saucedo about the challenges of housing low-income families on a national level, and the programs addressing it through the federal government, was so impactful for our attendees,” he said. “We can take this news and use it to empower policy and actions in Independence and our surrounding communities. We are grateful for the NLIHC’s partnership to advance our education and understanding.”

For more information, contact Social Service Summit Co-Chairs Doug Cowan at cowand@cslcares.org or Sarah Schoefield Wimberley at rev.sarah@sbcglobal.net