WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For people who are homeless, the difficulty of finding a place to live is compounded with other barriers.

That can include not having an ID, no easy access to the internet, and not knowing where or how to get started.

Breakthrough Wichita is helping people get off the street and secure housing. They credit their 94% retention rate to one thing, their peer support program.

For Richard Patterson, he knows what people living on the streets are up against.

“I mean, finding clean clothes, clean water, edible food. It’s all a struggle, said Patterson.

He was homeless for about six years.

“When you’re on the streets you’re in survival mode and so your typical day to day things can seem like an insurmountable challenge.”

richard patterson

However, Patterson also knows what it takes to pull yourself out of what feels like a hopeless situation.

“As scary as it is, it can be done, said Patterson. “I’m living proof.”

Richard Patterson was homeless for six years.

About 18 months ago, with help from Breakthrough, Patterson was able to get into a home.

The true success of Patterson’s story isn’t what he was able to do for himself, but what he’s been willing to do for others.

Patterson now works as a certified peer support specialist at Breakthrough. Helping people navigate a system that was once confusing for him.

He also teaches people how to maintain a home, like properly cleaning a bathroom and washing dishes.

“Even though you’ve been given housing, you still are the same person you were the day before homeless,” said Patterson.

“So you’ve still got to work your way through all that, and to be able to get back on top of that, you know, to fit in with the rest of society.”

Breakthrough officials credit peer support with why their retention rate is so high.

“You become very invisible on the streets and a second-class citizen in many ways, but if you have a place to live, you become more a part of the community,” explained Rachel Newell, director of development at Breakthrough ESS Wichita.

Breakthrough launched peer support with their housing program in 2021. In the first year, they were able to meet their goal of helping 24 people secure housing, with Patterson helping each one.

Breakthrough offers assistance in four other areas, aiming to break through the cycle of poverty and mental illness.

The other Breakthrough programs include: