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Sedgwick County Commissioner: Sale of QuikTrip near downtown Wichita highlights larger issue

Entrance to former Quik Trip at Broadway and Murdock
Kylie Cameron
/
KMUW
Cones block off an entrance to the former QuikTrip at Broadway and Murdock. Workers were at the convenience store Tuesday taking down signage as it transitions to a Jump Start.

The store serves a lower income area – as well as many members of the unhoused community.

The QuikTrip at Broadway and Murdock is switching hands to Jump Start, a south-central Kansas convenience store chain.

The store serves a lower income area – as well as many members of the unhoused community.

But the sale highlights a larger issue in Sedgwick County, Commissioner Lacey Cruse said Tuesday.

“I think this is an important example of how we have to create a business-friendly environment,” Cruse said, “and we do that by helping those that are really suffering from mental illness and substance misuse and the homelessness that we see.

“There are things we can do to make it better. I mean, we can't just arrest our way out of this problem.”

A QuikTrip spokesperson would not give a reason for the store’s closure in a phone call.

“If we can reduce those kinds of things … then perhaps maybe QT wouldn’t be vacating” Cruse said. “Mental health has really affected our economy down here.”

Cruse said since the beginning of this year, there have been more than 400 911 calls in the area of the former QuikTrip – which is nearly double the call volume of the QuikTrip at Kellogg and Maize.

“A lot of time and effort goes into handcuffing and putting people behind bars when we really need to rehabilitate them,” Cruse said.

When the closure was first reported by the Wichita Eagle, homeless advocates were worried that the chain would not be as accommodating to the unhoused community.

Officials with Jump Start said in a news release – and confirmed in a phone call with KMUW – that they’re working with community members on how to continue to serve the area.

“The new Broadway location supports a broad scope of our community. As a new neighbor, we have been working with various community partners in the area,” Phil Near, owner and president of Jump Start Stores Inc., said in a release.

The release said the company it has been working with local governments, the Wichita Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, Comcare and Union Rescue Mission.

In the long run, investing in mental health services can pay off for the county, Cruse said.

“We want to reduce the number of people in our jail; 70% of people in there are suffering from some type of addiction, 30% have a diagnosed mental illness,” she said.

“What are we doing to reduce …. that number? If we have more people in our jail, that means more deputies, we have to pay more medical costs, more food costs that we have to pay. If we don't have as many people … the cost is lower for the county and for taxpayers.”

More members of the unhoused community began to frequent the convenience store after white lines were painted outside of buildings and homeless services at Second and Topeka – preventing them from camping there during the day.

“It’s an ongoing issue down there,” said April Holt, who is known as the Crazy Sack Lady and helps the unhoused community.

“It’s like, as soon as people gather up, it’s like, the police come by and push them along … they just more or less go around in a circle.”

Jump Start will remain open while it remodels, which is expected to be completed by July.