KANSAS CITY, Kan. – More than 100 people, including the mother and two young sons of the late Frank Williams, turned out on a sun-splashed afternoon Friday for a ceremony dedicating the new Frank Williams Outreach Center to helping homeless people.
Recalled as a big man with a big heart, Williams died suddenly in 2001 at the age of 32.
Before he was felled by an aneurysm, he made a big impression in the four years he worked as a case manager for the Wyandot Center, the not-for-profit community mental health center that created and will run the new outreach center, which is located in a squat, yellow-brick building at 1201 N. Seventh St.
in downtown KCK.
The Wyandot Center spent $500,000 to acquire and transform the former plasma-donation center.
Several speakers at the dedication ceremony cited Williams’ passion for helping –without judgment – people who were down on their luck.
“Not only was he the best person he could be, but he would challenge you to be the best you could be, too,” said Darla Belflower, Wyandot Center’s service coordinator for supportive housing services. “Here at Frank’s place, our goal is to treat everyone with dignity and respect and to get it right, just as Frank would have done.”
Supportive housing is just one of several services targeted to homeless people with persistent mental illness now being offered at the center.
Belflower said the center would provide various types of support to help people keep roofs over their heads. It could be anything from helping with apartment cleaning to mediating a dispute with a landlord.
The center also offers a similar supported-employment program.
Officials said the center also offers those who lack homes more immediate forms of help, such as the ability to clean up – showers for their bodies and washer/dryers for their clothing – and a place to get in out of the weather. There also are desks, phones and computers they can use.
And while there are no overnight stays, the staff tries to help clients with whatever they need to escape homelessness – a referral to mental-health or substance-abuse counseling, new clothes, help seeking a job and other assistance.
Jeff Sosinski has been the service coordinator for Wyandot Center’s homeless-outreach program – which was previously located in a nearby house — for three years.
“We have a lot of successes,” Sosinski said.
Among the speakers at the dedication were Mayor Joe Reardon and Tarence Maddox, commissioner; both of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan.,
And Leona Williams, Frank’s mother, said: “He’s not dead. His name is living on. Let there be love and understanding and grace. If you see somebody, help them out a little bit. … A smile, or talking to them, showing you accept them – it means something. … As long as you live, you’ve got a chance to be better.”