Wichita’s Homeless Providers Navigate Group Living In Age Of Social Distancing

Jun 9, 2020
Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle

Without their own living space in which to practice social distancing, many Wichitans who are homeless have continued to rely on communal living shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Lenexa church is suing the city for denying its request to use its building as a temporary homeless shelter.

Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church says the denial infringes on its exercise of religion, violating the Constitution, state law and federal law.  

The church, at 9400 Pflumm Road, occupies a former elementary school building adjoining commercial and office properties, although the building is zoned residential single family.

Mya Acosta / KMUW

HumanKind Ministries has completed renovations on its homeless shelter, increasing the capacity for homeless individuals.

HumanKind, formerly InterFaith Ministries, hosted an open house Monday to showcase the remodel.

The renovations include new flooring and ceilings. The entire shelter in downtown Wichita also was repainted and deep cleaned.

The remodeling also created more space for clients, allowing the shelter to sleep up to 60 people.

Multiple organizations in Wichita that provide mental health, substance abuse and homeless services plan to team up with the police department and the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office.

They all will work together to prevent people who are seeking care from getting lost in the system.

“Over the last few years, recognizing that with the systems that are siloed … you had mental health, you had substance abuse, homelessness and all of them with different missions and with different monies,” said Harold Casey, executive director of the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas.

KMUW/File photo

The annual “point-in-time” count of homeless people in Wichita and Sedgwick County shows some changes in the population this year.

The survey found 593 people were homeless, which is a slight increase from last year, and the highest overall number since 2014.

Delane Butler, vice president of marketing for the United Way of the Plains, says this snapshot suggests more work needs to be done to address the local homeless problem.

Union Rescue Mission

The Union Rescue Mission in Wichita is expanding its efforts to help men recovering from homelessness and addiction.

The faith-based nonprofit has opened a new multi-unit housing complex called "Eagles Wing."  Up to two dozen men can live there as they transition from recovery programs into independent living.

Union Rescue CEO Doug Nolte says providing a housing option gives participants the best chance for success.

ROSIE O'BEIRNE / Flickr Creative Commons

Inter-Faith Ministries will host its first “Homeless For A Day Challenge” this spring.

Participants will stay in Inter-Faith’s winter homeless shelter and take part in activities to educate them on the issues surrounding homelessness. There will also be virtual challenges like feeding a family on $5 for those who cannot attend in person.

Courtesy photo

A faith-based organization that serves homeless people in Wichita will undergo a leadership change next week.

The Union Rescue Mission is reorganizing its management structure to be in line with other nonprofits. On Monday, former Wichita Police Capt. Doug Nolte will become the new CEO.

Nolte knows the homeless community and its struggles through his law enforcement work. He says he put retirement on hold so he can help those in need.

ROSIE O'BEIRNE / Flickr Creative Commons

Sedgwick County commissioners renewed a federal grant Wednesday for a housing program that helps homeless people.

The Shelter Plus Care Housing Program gives homeless people a place to live while they work on skills to increase their income and self-sufficiency.

Assistant County Manager Tim Kaufman said Wednesday the program provides housing vouchers with a care component.

A McLin / flickr Creative Commons

A faith-based organization that serves homeless people in Wichita has launched a campaign to combat panhandling.