Community Snapshot: Wichita, KS

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Community Snapshot | December 8, 2009

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December 2009

The City of Wichita and Sedgwick County are located in the southern part of Kansas and have a population of over 480,000 people. In 2005, the Sedgwick County Point-in-Time count found 728 people experiencing homelessness. Of the total number of homeless people counted, 25 percent (184) were chronically homeless. This rate of chronic homelessness far exceeded the state rate of 6.6 percent in 2005.

In response, Wichita/Sedgwick County joined together in 2006—in response to strong advocacy from nonprofit and faith-based organizations—to form the Taskforce to End Chronic Homelessness (TECH). TECH was charged with identifying the right strategies to end homelessness in the community as well as with developing a plan to end chronic homelessness. In March of 2008, the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners endorsed the completed ten year plan to end homelessness in Wichita/Sedgwick County.

This collaborative effort has resulted in a more comprehensive approach to ending homelessness and is marked by a distinct shift toward a Housing First model. Further, the commitment to creating right-sized solutions to chronic homelessness is clear throughout the key strategies identified below.

Key Initiatives

Housing First/Permanent Supportive Housing. One of the principle strategies outlined in the TECH plan was the provision of permanent supportive housing using a Housing First model. The United Way of the Plains implemented a Housing First pilot project that ran from 2008 to 2009. The success of this pilot project led to the implementation of an official program—formally implemented in March of 2009—which is a cooperative program that uses blended funding and staff from the city and the county.

The program identified an immediate need of 64 scattered-site houses or apartments with supportive services attached. In the first six months of the program, 54 persons who were chronically homeless were housed. The provision of permanent supportive housing in Wichita/Sedgwick County has had a direct effect on the number of people who are chronically homeless.

Addressing Immediate Needs of Homeless or At-Risk People.

Additional strategies outlined by Wichita/Sedgwick County are designed to address the immediate financial or housing crises leading to homelessness. Chiefly, a One-Stop Resource and Referral Center is being expanded in order to both serve more clients and provide clients with more services. The focus of the Center is to get people into permanent housing through targeted housing referrals, but it also provides centralized access to mainstream benefits, job placement assistance, mental health case management, physical health care services, and peer support groups.

Comprehensive Survey of Homeless Population.

In January of 2009, the United Way of the Plains and the State of Kansas embarked on a landmark survey of the homeless population throughout the state. To gain a better understanding of who made up the homeless population, they collected information on the demographics of the population, contributing factors to homelessness, benefits received, and services needed. This comprehensive survey provides Wichita/Sedgwick County with a greater understanding of the constitution and the scope of its local homeless population and the ability to design interventions accordingly.


Outcomes

By 2009, the number of homeless people counted in Wichita/Sedgwick County had declined considerably. In January of 2005, there were 728 homeless persons counted in the city and county. By January of 2009, this figure declined by 47 percent to 384. Further, the number of chronically homeless persons declined by over 61 percent from 184 in 2005, to 71 chronically homeless persons counted in 2009. This decline in chronic homelessness is attributable to the increase in the number of permanent supportive housing units. In recent years, Wichita/Sedgwick County increased its permanent supportive housing stock by over 33 percent. Additionally, through its Housing First program, they housed 85 percent (54 chronically homeless people) of the total goal in the first six months of the program Wichita/Sedgwick County has shown a strong commitment to ending homelessness among chronically homeless individuals. The strategies outlined and implemented demonstrate the shift away from managing homelessness toward a system designed to end it.

Across the country, communities are making progress in ending homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Community Snapshot Series highlights strategies, programs, and innovations in these communities. To learn how to end homelessness in ten years, visit our website.