Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs Distribute Supplies Collected From Second Annual Clothing Drive

Andrei Stoica and Brynn Laurel

12/20/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

Anton Washington and other volunteers load supplies to be distributed to the houseless community in Kansas City, Missouri

Photo by Andrei Stoica

Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs held its second annual clothing drive for houseless residents of Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday, December 20. Anton Washington, Executive Director of Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs, said the drive ties into the organization’s broader work in the community, which primarily offers services for young adults in the Black community.

“Youth need to place their foot in the community to build,” he said. “We’re doing this for our city, our community, to bring our community hope.”

The drive resulted in about 120 bags being handed out at various camps and other locations around the city. The bags included supplies such as hand sanitizer, hand warmers, blankets, thermal underwear and other essentials. The group also handed out coats, shoes and sleeping bags.

“I got a coat for my daughter,” one woman said. “I’m happy now.”

Houselessness is a significant issue for both the metro and the state, with Missouri ranking higher in percentage (1.09 percent) of houseless individuals than most surrounding states (e.g., Kansas’ 0.42 percent). Of the over 6,000 people experiencing houselessness in Missouri, nearly 500 are veterans, over 475 are young adults (18-24) and over 1,000 experience chronic houselessness.

These statistics have led groups like Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs to consider houselessness—especially youth houselessness—as one of their primary areas of focus. The group works to provide resources specifically for the Black community in Kansas City, who disproportionately experience many of the systemic barriers that contribute to houselessness. For example, even though Black Kansas Citians comprise less than 30 percent of the population, they are over 40 percent of those living under the poverty line. Poverty is one of the most prominent risk factors for houselessness for youth and families.

Houselessness also significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 due to factors such as close living quarters, lack of access to healthcare and PPE, and increased risk of underlying health conditions. Washington said providing supplies and other assistance related to COVID-19—and the inequities it has exposed—would be a priority for his organization heading into 2021 as well.

Washington also said he hopes others will see the project and feel inspired to do similar work to support the houseless in the metro.

“What ideas we have will spread,” he said. “If people notice, they will get involved.”

He explained that, too often, disagreements among community members prevent initiatives like this one from gaining traction.

“Why are we bickering? Why have mentalities of division?” he asked. “We have to stick together.”

Ryan Sorrell of Black Rainbow, who partnered with Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs to support the drive, explained that initiatives like this drive are connected to other activist actions as well.

“I'm just incredibly appreciative of this initiative that Anton has put together for the houseless community,” he said. “It's incredibly important that people see—visibly see—the work that's being done in the community. And I think that this is so important, because a lot of times people see us out in the streets protesting. They see us at City Hall doing occupations. They see us calling for restructuring of power in the city. But they don't see the very positive things that are happening in the community. They don't see the mutual aid. They don't see the community building that's taking place.”

Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs has spearheaded related initiatives this month as well, including toy drives and other holiday events. They are continuing to collect donations and considering other ways to assist the community during the winter months.

For Washington, this type of involvement is crucial. He criticized city leadership for not being involved deeply enough with the communities they claim to serve.

“If you love us, put your ass in the community,” he said. “Don’t sit at your desk.”

For the event organizers, showing the community they were willing to listen to needs and show material support and care was key.

“We just want to be a beacon of hope for the city as well, and let people know that this is something that’s possible,” Sorrell said of Black Rainbow’s collaboration with Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs for the drive.

“You have to be in love with your people,” Washington said.

Published on: 12/23/2020