WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As the city considers spending up to $685,000 to open a temporary winter shelter, county and state leaders are joining the conversation. They’re shifting their focus to a long-term plan to open a center where unhoused individuals can get help for many issues.
The initial plan was to get the multi-agency center up and running by 2027. State leaders who attended this morning’s roundtable discussion say that this needs to get done a lot sooner.
The city has just a third of the funds they project they’ll need to open the center. This left questions about why the need was not brought to state lawmakers’ attention earlier.
Kansas State Representative Sandy Pickert serves on the Welfare Reform Committee. She is curious why a meeting about homelessness during last year’s session didn’t have anyone from the Wichita area.
“We heard about issues in Topeka, Lawrence, and Johnson County, we had nobody at the table from Sedgwick County, which I thought to myself, where is Sedgwick County in this picture,” said Kansas State Representative District 88, Sandy Pickert.
She believes communities need to move away from temporary shelters as soon as possible.
“We’re responsible for taxpayer dollars. If we’re going to assist homelessness statewide, we don’t want to be doing this for emergency services every year,” said Pickert.
The proposed solution is Wichita’s plan for a one-stop shop, known as a “MAC” or Multi-Agency Center. However, the MAC will be expensive.
“It’s about a $25 to 30 million ask; we’ve got funding identified of about $9.5 million, so we know we need to close that gap,” said Bryan Frye, Wichita City Council, District 5.
He knows people are worried about where the center could go, possibly downtown or on the outskirts of town.
“There’s advantages to each location, and I think you’re always going to have people concerned about it being in their backyard,” said Frye.
Wichita and Sedgwick County leaders are preparing to bring the MAC’s needs to the next Welfare Reform Committee Meeting on Nov. 9.
“Have a unified voice from Sedgwick County about what we need, where we need it, how much it’s going to cost, how many people is it going to serve,” said Pickert.