Kar Woo and Artists Helping the Homeless in KC; An Ever Expanding Mission

This week Kar Woo of Artists Helping the Homeless joins Jessica Thomas to talk about their work filling in the gaps between other service providers.

Artists Helping the Homeless, Inc., was founded by Kar Y. Woo in February 2008 and obtained 501(c)3 status to fund a Sunday night meal program for homeless in the Plaza/Midtown area through the sale of art.  Woo had encountered the homeless while walking his dog in the park behind his store.  When one Sunday night he noticed MNU students serving the homeless dinner, he joined them.  As relationships grew, he learned of the needs and challenges of the homeless.  He realized many barriers confronting the homeless could be address through existing community resources before they became a costly and sometimes painful emergency.  He has taken on the mission of filling in the gaps between the service providers in our community.

When Saint Luke’s Hospital was convening a meeting of local emergency care providers and homeless services organizations, the homeless suggested they invite Artists Helping the Homeless.

In February 2010, Artists Helping the Homeless changed dramatically with the launch of the BE THE CHANGE van, the result of the Saint Luke’s meeting.  The goal of the van program is to reduce the need and cost of homeless emergency care.  Without transportation, the homeless turn to emergency services to meet their basic needs.  The van operates between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. every night to take homeless from streets, stores and hospitals to a safe place.  Acceptance exceeded expectations and day time service to provide program intake, assistance to youth and those in women’s and family shelters and to field 211 (homeless hotline) calls was started in March 2010.  Today, the van program operates 100 hours a week with 5 employees and 3 interns.

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