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Wichita plans to clear homeless encampments near downtown shelters

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Kylie Cameron
The city painted lines around United Methodist Open Door in downtown Wichita in order to clean up homeless encampments that have sprung up around the building.

Wichita Police and the city of Wichita are working to clean up areas on downtown sidewalks where homeless people are camping out.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated with information from a news conference after the post’s original publication Wednesday.)

Wichita Police cited an increase in violence and drug use at Second and Topeka as reasons for lines being painted outside of United Methodist Open Door and nearby areas.

The city plans to treat the area inside the lines as public property in order to clear it of homeless encampments that have developed there.

The measures were taken after input from businesses, churches and homeless shelters in the area, Wichita Police said Wednesday at a news conference.

No one has yet to be arrested for trespassing, police said, and they don’t plan on doing so.

“Enforcement isn’t a thing we’re looking to do,” Wichita Police Capt. Wendell Nicholson said. “We’re just trying to be responsive to the stakeholders in the area about some of their concerns about some of the homelessness in that area.”

Plans to paint lines around the homeless center and other nearby areas were first made public at a City Council District 6 Advisory Board meeting on Monday night.

The following morning, lines were painted and notices were posted there and under the Second Street bridge near WAVE, giving people until Friday to clear their belongings.

By Wednesday morning, the notices were removed from under the bridge. It’s unclear who removed the signs.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said the decision to paint lines on the sidewalk did not go through the City Council. He criticized the decision and said better action needs to be taken to help unhoused people.

“But overall, being homeless shouldn’t be a crime,” Whipple said, “and we should be looking towards solving the underlying issues that our population experiencing homelessness are going through and not just pushing them out of sight and out of mind.”

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.