“Let Us Take It Into Our Own Hands”: Camp 6ixx Demands Support, Not Sweeps

Brynn Fitzsimmons

4/4/2021- Kansas City, Missouri

Camp 6ixx, which began as a warming site for the houseless community in Westport in January, is facing a sweep threat from the city, who has ordered them to leave by end of day on April 4.

Photo by Andrei Stoica

“When they do the sweeps, where the people go, right?” said Willis, one of the houseless residents of Camp 6ixx, a houseless camp in Westport that started as a warming site in January and has since grown to a small community, with community members working to improve tent structures, start a community garden and coordinate other resources for the houseless community. The camp is named for Scott “Sixx” Eicke, a houseless man who died of exposure on New Year’s Day.

The city has issued notice to both Camp 6ixx and the Kansas City Homeless Union’s occupation of city hall in Kansas City, Missouri to vacate the camps by end of day on Sunday, April 4. The camps are anticipating sweeps in the early hours of Monday morning.

Willis said sweeps threaten the safety and stability of unhoused individuals by taking the resources the houseless community has been able to gain. He said services for houseless individuals needs to include giving people homes—not sweeping camps.

“You know, it's the city officials and people who give Section A government housing need to step up and say, ‘Hey, this, these buildings that are empty, and get these people and reprocess them. They need reconstruction in their lives. Something in their lives failed, hurt them; let's pick them up,’” he said.

Another camp resident, Michael said the city should support what’s already happening onsite at the camp, rather than trying to impose their own guidelines or programs.

“People of Kansas City are pretty much doing everything they can. They're coming by with food, clothes, supplies, and even the people that set this set this up is spending their money to make it better. So the city could just help,” Michael said. “It's not like they don't have the money or the manpower or the resources, why they shouldn't? why they're shutting camps now, with nowhere for people to go--what's the next step after that? Take him to jail for sitting on sitting down somewhere? I mean, it's almost like they're just trying to circulate the money within their own organization.”

“The city (is) just sitting there, and all they're doing is shutting camps down Instead of…opening up opportunities for these camps to better themselves, for people to actually find jobs,” Michael said. “It's kind of hard to do that when you have no internet and no computer, no access to anything, and a lot of these people don't.”

He explained that in addition to resources like internet access, there are many other resources that would help the houseless community that aren’t freely available and improving access should be how the city responds to camps like Camp 6ixx.

“You shouldn't have to get arrested to get drug treatment,” he said. “(The city) should come through and offered stuff like drug treatment. They should come through and offer job resources, you know, (saying) 'We got this, we got this over here, y'all can come by jump on the computer, job hunt.’ But like I said…all the city's worried about is their own pockets.”

Kansas City’s 2021-2022 budget allocates $1.72 million to housing initiatives, with nearly half that funding going to contracts with non-municipal organizations. Houseless leaders at both Camp 6ixx and the Kansas City Homeless Union occupation of city hall have criticized the budget for funding organizations, such as shelters, that often don’t provide permanent solutions to houselessness or housing insecurity.

Joe, another member of the camp, said some businesses have complained about the camp or have cut resources like open WiFi that members of the camp relied on to look for work.

“Subway's always had WiFi…(but) just the last couple of days, they shut it off,” he said. “It's hard to look for a job or anything when you don't have internet or computer that kind of resource.”

Joe explained he is at the camp staying with his mother, who became houseless after leaving an abusive relationship. He said there were no shelters available that would let them stay together. His brother, who became houseless in February, is in the hospital, and Joe said he’s needed to watch his mother’s possessions while she is with his brother.

“It's kind of a messed up situation,” he said. “You know, it's kind of hard when you're in that situation to try to get out of it. Like, I don't, I can't get a job because I don't have a place to live.”

Amanda, an organizer who has been supporting Camp 6ixx, said the need for housing has been a primary demand from the camp, with many residents asking: “There's 10,000 vacant homes in Kansas City; why are we laying our heads on the ground?”

“We want the homes,” she said. “We know how to pick them up. We have contractors here. We have people that have done electrical work, plumbing work, all of that. And so why, why not give us the homes, let us to take it into our own hands? We're doing it here, and we're doing a good job.”

Organizations involved in assisting Camp 6ixx have included Care Beyond the Boulevard, Uplift, Team Jesus, Street Medicine KC, ReStart, Hope Faith Ministries and many community residents who have stopped by with donations or to ask how they can help.

The camp is accepting donations via Venmo and Cashapp ($Camp6ixx) and can be contacted via their Facebook page.

Published on: 4/4/2021