Douglas County Commission to vote on respite housing proposal

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Kar Woo, founder of the Kansas City-based nonprofit Artists Helping the Homeless, speaks to the Douglas County Commission during its work session on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will vote on a project that aims to provide respite housing and support for residents with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Commissioners will consider entering into a memorandum of understanding with a Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit, Artists Helping the Homeless, for the project.

“By partnering with (AHH), clients will not only be housed, but also receive the comprehensive support, programming, or access cognitive behavioral and addiction programming services through community partners,” Jill Jolicoeur, assistant to the county administrator, wrote in a memo to the commission.

At a work session on April 17, the commission heard from Kar Woo, the founder of AHH, about similar projects he’s launched in the Kansas City area. Among services the programs provide are transportation, medical and dental care, behavioral health care and scholarships.

If the program is approved, Woo and his group would find a residential home in the area to lease or purchase, he told the commission at the work session.

The project would house at least six and up to 12 residents at a time, beginning within three months of the agreement going into effect. The home would be monitored 24/7 by full-time and part-time peer support specialists.

During the previous work session, the project was presented as a means of filling a gap in services for men, as many available grants and programs target women. However, the three-year agreement in the commission’s agenda does not specify whom the project would serve, beyond stating “Douglas County residents.”

According to the memo, the rough estimate of $400,000 per year for the program’s first three years could be provided from existing budget authority in the county’s behavioral health projects budget.

In other business, commissioners will:

• Attend a 4 p.m. work session on a project charter for open space planning in the county. Helen Schnoes, the county’s sustainability and food systems planner, will give a presentation on the charter, which would provide a guiding framework for the county to establish expectations and begin formal planning for its open spaces.

Several area residents, including some environmental experts, spoke in support of an open space plan during the commission’s Feb. 20 meeting. Some indicated that they would be interested in serving on a committee or board, should one form in the future.

• Consider a proposal from the Overland Park-based Abdallah Shriners to offer a beer garden at the next Douglas County Fair, to be held July 29-Aug. 3. According to a memo in the meeting agenda, the fair board would receive a cut of the profits.

The commission will meet at 4 and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agenda materials are available via

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