The Fall 2017 issue of the UMKC School of Law alumni magazine, Res Ipsa, highlights alumni who are working to develop housing and community spaces for those in need. In this excerpt from “Defending the Home Front,” alumni are providing shelter for homeless veterans, creating affordable housing for Native Americans and fighting the war against vacant structures that threaten to destroy entire neighborhoods. While their actions differ, their mission is the same: Home sweet home.
UMKC alumnus, Bryan Meyer (J.D. ’15), is the chief legal officer for Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit organization that provides tiny homes for veterans.
“We’re not the first people to do tiny houses for the homeless, but we are the first ones to build them inside city limits,” Meyer says. “We’re creating the blueprint for other cities.”
Meyer explains that access to community, city services and the bus route are key in trying to help veterans get back on their feet.
Meyer knows the struggles of those who have served in the military because he has also been there. Meyer was in boot camp during Sept. 11, 2001. Later as a helicopter crew chief, he was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005. He returned home in 2006 to Kansas City and later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public administration and finally, a juris doctorate in law.
Starting when he was a student at UMKC, Meyers volunteered for military organizations and offered free legal services. He got to know other veterans serving veterans, including Chris Stout and Brandon Mixon, who were both medically discharged from the U.S. Army. They discussed the inadequacies and injustices they witnessed when it came to homeless veterans. Too many ex-service people needing assistance were turned down. Stout, Mixon, and Meyer decided to form the nonprofit corporation.
So far, the organization has received more than 500 inquiries about the tiny houses locally and from around the world. They have served 2,000 veterans so far with job training services, counseling, free buss passes and more. They recently completed 10 model homes.
PULLING SOME OF THE WEIGHT
Since 2011, Casey Cline (J.D. ’09) has worked at Travois. The mission-driven business headquartered in Kansas City has helped create affordable housing and economic development, with a value of more than $1.3 billion, in American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.
Travois offers diverse services including architectural and environmental consulting to create energy-efficient and culturally appropriate designs that meet all financing requirements. In her role as development director, Cline oversees a team of five in the complex Low-Income Housing Tax Credit process.
“Each state has a different set of rules,” Cline says. “One of my roles is to monitor and track the multitude of deadlines for our pipeline of 10 to 15 active projects.”
Cline attends a lot of groundbreakings and sees that the hard work pays off in homes for many people who especially deserve safe, welcoming homes.
A critical problem in Kansas City’s urban core is vacant houses. Abandoned, deteriorating structures bring down the homes around them, lowering property values and weakening the neighborhood. There are roughly 9,000 vacant structures in Kansas City. The School of Law helps address these issues through the Abandoned Housing Clinic, run by Adjunct Professor David White.
Peter Hoffman (J.D. ’12) also combats the issue. Hoffman is project director for Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s Adopt-A-Neighborhood Project since 2015, when the project was awarded a pro bono innovation grant by the Legal Services Corporation. Just this fall, the project received a sustainability grant to continue the project to 2019 and expand its reach. Through Adopt-A-Neighborhood, Legal Aid of Western Missouri partners with local private law firms and focuses on low-income neighborhoods in Kansas City.
Check out Res Ipsa to read more about Bryan Meyers, Casey Cline and Peter Hoffman’s work in the community.