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During dangerous summer heat, one Wichita group wants to map places with free water

Sign hanging in window indicating there's free water
Kylie Cameron
/
KMUW
Sign hanging in the window of Breakthrough as part of the Alliance of Overlooked Neighbors hydration awareness event.

In downtown Wichita, where some homeless services are located, it can be hard for those who are experiencing homelessness to find water, advocates said.

While temperatures in Wichita reach dangerous levels, a local nonprofit is partnering with Wichita-area organizations to provide water stations for those in need.

The Alliance of Overlooked Neighbors, a new non-profit that helps unhoused people, is printing signs that businesses or organizations can display on their buildings to offer free water to the public. It also will print maps with those locations.

Homeless advocates said, and Wichita Police later confirmed, a member of the unhoused community has already died this year from heat-related issues.

In downtown Wichita, where some homeless services are located, it can be hard for those who are experiencing homelessness to find water, according to alliance founder Olivia Sailors.

“They often have to walk pretty far to get free water or find a public bathroom,” Sailors said. “Sometimes they experience being turned away even in the places that did provide free water.”

The signage is part of the alliance’s first education and awareness event that runs from July 11-24.

“We're going to be passing [maps] out to people on the streets, but we're also going to be passing that out to homeless service providers and substance abuse prevention providers to get this information out to as many people as possible,” Sailors said. “This will still be something that people can learn from and benefit from, because they'll know long-term locations [where] they can get water.”

One of those locations is Breakthrough, formerly known as Episcopal Social Services.

“While a tub of water may be new in our reception [area], we always have extra water to hand out during our free breakfast meal, upon request, from our peer support staff,” Rachel Newell with Breakthrough said in an email. “We do this year-round.”

Those wanting to participate can reach out to the alliance or donate water to area community fridges.

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.