He is a short, crew-cut white man reportedly last seen wearing an old laminated badge and hitting up ATA riders for money to run his homeless shelter. Except that he no longer runs a homeless shelter. The people who live there say he's just on the run.
Carpenter was in charge of a two-story safe house crammed between historic homes in the Northeast's Pendleton Heights neighborhood.
It was, according to residents, the "Cadillac of homeless shelters." Some shelters take people's clothes at bedtime, issuing them hospital gowns as a way of keeping out weapons and drugs. Others offer disinfected barracks-style rooms, cold showers and reheated meals.
A year ago, the refrigerator at U.S. Mission was always full. A turkey fryer bubbled in the kitchen. Residents had two computers with Roadrunner Internet service and three TVs with HBO. Upstairs, bunk beds could accommodate eight "refugees" and three "volunteers" (long-term residents who helped run the place).
U.S. Mission is a California-based nonprofit religious group with a network of corporate officers operating from within shelters throughout the United States. Residents get room and board in exchange for the money they collect going door-to-door; in Kansas City, they are allowed to keep 20 percent of the take for bus fare or cigarettes.
"There are no 'professional' people in the organization," Executive Director Mike Robbins tells the Pitch by telephone from San Jose, California. "We all come from the street."
That includes Carpenter. He started out working for U.S. Mission as a volunteer in California, then ran operations in Denver and Omaha before creating the Pendleton Heights outpost two years ago.
At first, times were good. In November 2001, ten residents hauled in an average of $76 a week. Darnell Metcalf led with $108; a guy named Scotty was second at $98. "We had a full house then," Metcalf recalls.
That December, residents handed out donated toys and clothes. A few months later, though, bills weren't being paid. Residents weren't getting their allowances. Food wasn't restocked, and KCPL kept turning off the electricity. Less than a year later, there were no funds available to put on a second annual Christmas giveaway.
On Palm Sunday, residents booted Carpenter from the shelter.
Metcalf and other residents say that when Carpenter left, he took two TVs, two computers, four desks, four chairs, bed linens and more than half of the pots and pans and dishes.
"I ain't got a spatula, nothing," Metcalf says. "I'm cooking with a plastic spoon."
Twice, Metcalf saw Carpenter packing up goods and walked up the street to call police. (The house phone had been shut off for lack of payment.) Kansas City, Missouri, police paid two visits to the house. Neither Carpenter nor Metcalf could produce any receipts for the goods -- they'd been donated, after all -- so Carpenter took his truckloads and left.
Searching the house and combing the contents of giant trash bags, Metcalf found a flurry of unpaid bills: $1,860 for cable, $189 for water, $1,302 for phone service, and a statement noting only three on-time payments in the past 12 months for $1,877 worth of natural gas. In addition, U.S. Mission owed $3,700 in back rent. There was a garnishment, dated July 3, 2002, totaling $1,834 from an uninsured auto accident at a shelter Carpenter had run in Omaha. There was a $200 bench warrant for Carpenter on a trespassing charge at Apple Market on Independence Avenue -- and a bank statement showing a $575 deposit into Carpenter's account on April 3.
Residents think a woman named Peggy Flores might know where Carpenter is. They say she was his girlfriend and lived in the house; Mission letterhead lists her as "co-director." The Pitch found her bartending at the Rathole, a dank, closet-sized Independence Avenue bar. But she declined to say anything about Carpenter's whereabouts.
Robbins says he heard from Carpenter a few weeks ago, when Carpenter phoned looking for a volunteer gig at one of U.S. Mission's California shelters. By late April, though, Robbins had seen all the unpaid bills and said the company might decide to press criminal charges instead of giving Carpenter a new home. They'll have to find him first.