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Wear pajamas Friday, and help the homeless

Some Wyandotte County residents will be skipping suits Friday in favor of flannel.

The Wyandotte County Homeless Coalition is encouraging residents to wear pajamas or an orange ribbon to raise awareness, and money, for the area’s homeless.

“It is in recognition of those people who do not have an opportunity to wear their pajamas to bed simply because they don’t have a place to stay,” coalition coordinator Atif Abdel-Khaliq said.

The coalition has encouraged businesses and schools to allow people to wear their pajamas in exchange for a suggested donation of $5. If pajamas won’t cut it, another option is an orange ribbon or a PJ Day T-shirt. The shirts are $10 to $12.

This is the second year for PJ Day and the first year that organizers will be promoting the event and collecting donations at the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony Friday night. They will also be collecting donations from 3 to 5 p.m. in front of the Unified Government City Hall.

Organizers hope to fund 100 new homeless beds during the next 10 years. The roughly $12,000 raised last year went to a men’s homeless shelter at 1723 Quindaro Blvd. The shelter is expected to have 16 beds and open in about six months, coalition chairwoman Pat Pettey said.

This year’s proceeds will also fund beds for the homeless, but a specific project has not been designated. Pettey anticipates it will likely serve homeless families.

According to the county’s 2011 State of Our Homeless report, while there are some transitional and supportive housing service options for men, women and families, as of April there were no emergency housing beds for women or families with children.

From 2009 to 2011, Wyandotte County registered a 51 percent increase in the number of homeless people, according to the report. Abdel-Khaliq emphasized that this population is larger and more diverse than the most visibly homeless.

“There is no one particular face of homelessness. That’s why it takes a community effort,” Abdel-Khaliq said.

A typical homeless person in Wyandotte County is 7 years old. During the 2010-2011 school year, the county had nearly 1,700 homeless school-age children, and about 1,400 of those attended Kansas City, Kan., public schools.

The inspiration for PJ Day came from a 10-year plan to end homelessness implemented in Denver.

Jamie Van Leeuwen, the former director of the Denver’s Road Home program, will present “A Blueprint to End Homelessness” at 8 a.m. Friday at the Kansas City Central Library downtown, 14 W. 10th St. During Van Leeuwen’s tenure, 2,000 new units of affordable housing were created.

The presentation also will feature information from the Greater Kansas City Homelessness Task Force. This year, the task force completed “Homeward Bound,” a sustainable-housing plan aimed at reducing the number of homeless people in the area. The report can be found online at www.kcmo.org/htf.

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