Wyandotte County Housing Summit highlights regional, collaborative approach to increasing safe and affordable housing

Nov 20, 2023
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Room of people sitting at round tables looking at a presentation screent

Hosted by the Wyandotte County Safe and Affordable Housing Action Team, the Wyandotte County Public Health Department and the Health Forward Foundation, the 5th annual Housing Summit highlighted organizations working to address the community’s affordable housing needs. 

Rachel Russell, director of community engagement at Cross-Lines Community Outreach, organized the summit. Russell, who also serves on the Greater Kansas City Regional Housing Strategy Committee, says high housing costs are creating barriers to economic growth and impacting the ability of residents to live in communities across the Kansas City metro. "Housing affordability is not a county issue. We need a regional solution," said Russell.

Julia Orlando, director of the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center in New Jersey presents keynote presentation at the 5th Annual Wyandotte County Housing Summit. Photo by Areiona King

Keynote speaker Julia Orlando, director of the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center in New Jersey, spoke on the issue of chronic homelessness. She encouraged attendees to help their communities move from managing homelessness to ending homelessness. 

By drawing on the expertise and experiences of small and large communities alike, focusing on a well-defined, shared outcome, and engaging a broader range of stakeholders, regional cooperation can lead to more effective housing policies and programs.

Julia Orlando, Director of Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center

Under Orlando’s leadership, Bergen County became the first community in the nation to reach “functional zero.” Functional zero is a milestone that must be sustained that indicates a community has measurably solved homelessness for a population. When it’s achieved, homelessness is rare and brief for that population. 

Additional presentations included updates on the Unified Government’s comprehensive PlanKCK, efforts to establish a countywide housing trust fund, connecting and providing housing services for veterans and supporting re-entry programs for offenders after incarceration.

This year's summit also celebrated housing work being done through the Affordable Housing Action Team and community agencies in Wyandotte County. Andrea Generaux, program officer with LISC Greater Kansas City, received the first-ever Affordable Housing Trailblazer Award for her foundational work with the county’s current Community Health Improvement Plan and for bringing together partners around the topic of affordable housing. 

Two women stand next to each other and the woman on the left is holding an award
Rachel Russell from Cross-Lines Community Outreach presents LISC Program Officer Andrea Generaux with the first-ever Affordable Housing Trailblazer Award. Photo by Areiona King

Learn more about partnerships across Greater Kansas City that work to foster a thriving housing system that produces and sustains a sufficient supply of quality, diverse housing options to meet the challenge on MARC's Housing program webpage.