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Wichita considering $5.5 million investment in “one-stop shop” facility for the housing insecure

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.
Kylie Cameron
Wichita may spend $5.5 million in federal money on a “one-stop shop” facility for people experiencing homelessness.

The facility would include a noncongregate shelter, affordable housing units and support services.

As housing prices rise and emergency rental programs come to an end, the city of Wichita is considering investing $5.5 million in federal money in a “one-stop shop” facility for people experiencing homelessness.

The facility would include a shelter, affordable housing units and a center with support services, such as case management and housing navigation.

Sally Stang, director of Wichita's Housing and Community Services, said during a City Council workshop that the facility would be a modern approach to addressing homelessness because it would offer services all in one place instead of moving people between shelters.

“It really is a different approach to how shelter can be done,” Stang said.

“How many people are we serving should not be the key number we’re looking at. The key number is, how many people have we gotten into permanent housing?"

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, a piece of federal legislation to help with the pandemic recovery. It has to be used to provide housing, services or shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness or other vulnerable populations. A 2022 count found that Wichita has 690 people experiencing homeless, up 62% from 2010.

The city is asking for public feedback through Dec. 5 on its plan. It is proposing that $2.2 million go to develop affordable rental housing and $2 million be used to acquire and develop a noncongregate shelter.

Noncongregate shelters allow every person to have private space, like a motel.

“One of the great things about it is you don’t have to worry about, ‘Is it a men’s shelter? Is it a women’s?’ ” Stang said during the City Council workshop. “Because they have individual spaces, and there’s safety around those spaces, you can have a mixed population.”

The rest of the money would be used for administration, planning and support services.

The city plans to seek a developer/general contractor and management partner to operate the affordable housing units, and an operator partner for the noncongregate shelter.

The city is currently anticipating that it will operate the navigation center providing supportive housing services.

The city contracted consulting firm Development Strategies to survey 20 different organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness to determine how to spend the $5.5 million.

Needs that arose included affordable rental units, shelters that accept single women and landlord engagement around accepting housing choice vouchers. Support services, like case management and housing navigation help, were also needed.

“There are no low-barrier emergency shelter options for women, which is a particular challenge in our community,” said Andy Pfister, a principal with Development Strategies, during a City Council workshop.

The proposed noncongregate shelter would prioritize women, according to the city’s plan.

The city also hopes to co-locate the facility with any social services hub meant to provide mental health and substance abuse resources. The Sedgwick County Mental Health and Substance Abuse coalition has considered investing in a hub like this.

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.