A hotel in downtown Wichita is being converted into a housing complex for residents experiencing homelessness.
The Wichita City Council voted Tuesday to give HumanKind Ministries more than $4 million in city funds and CARES Act funds to purchase the 316 Hotel on North Topeka and renovate it into a 56-unit affordable housing complex.
"Now I’m not naïve, and we shouldn’t be, that this project won’t solve the issue of homelessness in our community," said HumanKind CEO Bill Williams. "It isn’t the final answer. It is, though, one piece of the puzzle."
The project is expected to be complete by next August. During renovation, the building will be used as a 24-hour women’s overflow shelter.
Wichita Housing Director Sally Stang told the council the COVID-19 pandemic has "intensely" impacted the homeless population and increased the need for non-congregate shelter.
"We have tremendous demand on our motel vouchers that we’re doing, and we definitely see the need for additional shelter this winter," she said.
The 316 Hotel went up for sale earlier this year. The land the hotel sits on as well as some empty parcels around it are owned by Ascension Via Christi; the organization will lease it to HumanKind for a dollar a year.
Robyn Chadwick, the head of Via Christi’s Behavioral Service Line, says in her career in health she’s seen the effect that lack of stable housing has on a person’s physical and mental health.
"This project will go so far,” she said. "Fifty-six clients a year, multiply that over decades to come before us, and think about the number of lives that we will impact."