WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Homelessness doesn’t just impact adults. There are children in Wichita, currently homeless for a variety of reasons.
For the fiscal year of 2021, Wichita Children’s Home helped over 1,800 young people find shelter and care. The assistance spanned across 41 Kansas counties, ranging in age from newborns up to age 24. Thirty-five were human trafficking victims, a 140% increase over the last year.
“I think in Wichita we take for granted our happy homes and our happy families, and it’s easy to not understand that there are situations going on around us where people are in crisis,” said Olivia Stineman, a Street Outreach Advocate with Wichita Children’s Home.
Most days, Stineman can be found canvassing under bridges and on the streets, searching for youth in need of help.
“I’ve encountered quite a few youth that come from foster care homes, and a simple thing, as a loved one passing away, and they don’t know where to turn, and they end up experiencing homelessness,” said Stineman.
Young people can also find themselves without a home after being kicked out or while trying to escape abuse.
“If it’s not you, then it’s someone you know that either has or will experience some type of crisis,” said Stineman.
Stineman typically carries food, toiletries, even a sleeping bag for those who need it, linking homeless youth and resources.
That includes the drop-in center at the Wichita Children’s Home.
“A homeless youth resource center, where they can come in and take a shower and get a hot meal and meet with a staff person that can really engage them in how we can help them and in their situation,” said Soutdaly Sysavath, director of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs at the Wichita Children’s Center.
Youth can stay in their shelter while staff helps them find long-term housing.
“The biggest barrier for our young people is they come to us with no birth certificate, without a social security card, without identification,” said Sysavath. “Without those things, you can’t obtain employment or housing.”
Logistics staff at home also look into what may have led up to a youth’s current situation.
“We take a look at the person as a whole, what needs do they have, are there mental health needs, are there substance abuse needs, are there families members we can reconnect them with,” said Sysavath.
The average stay is 33 days, according to staff.
As for Stineman, she wants people to remember, “these youth have a voice that needs to be heard, and their stories are valuable.
Street outreach is only a portion of what Wichita children’s home does. Staff help youth find employment. They also partner with Safe Place. If there’s a Yellow Safe Place sign, people can tell the employee that they’re looking for a “safe place.” An advocate from Wichita Children’s Home will be called out to assist.
Other services offered by Wichita Children’s Home include:
- Crisis intervention
- Medical care
- Family mediation
- Parent education
- Peer counseling
- Case management
- Behavior modification
- Round-the-clock victim counseling
- Street outreach to homeless and at-risk youth
- Drug & alcohol abuse education, prevention, assessments and referrals
- Life-skills training and assistance in preparing for and obtaining employment
Three ways to Support Wichita Children’s Home:
- Volunteer to be a mentor to young people.
- Donate Items from their wish list, including toiletries, sleeping bags, earbuds
- Monetary Donation