WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Homelessness on the rise in Wichita but increasing at a rate lower than the national average.
The Wichita Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) said there has been about a 4% increase in the homeless population. The team said that number is small compared to the national increase.
The HOT team said it’s not uncommon to see more people on the streets of Wichita as the weather warms up.
“To see the people out on the street and not have enough shelter space to bring them in,” said Ann Nash, the program director of St. Anthony Shelter.
Nash said her shelter has been full since January.
“That’s heartbreaking in itself, you know to see children that you may have to turn away because we don’t have enough space for them,” said Nash.
Nash said St. Anthony Shelter had 191 families stay in 2020, but when the weather starts warming up in Wichita, demand decreases.
“It’s warm outside people feel like they could go stay at the park, or we can camp out in our cars so our numbers are not really going up as much,” she said.
Officer Nate Schwiethale said in the summer when some shelters close, his team gets busier.
“This is a normal atmosphere for us to see,” said officer Schwiethale.
Schwiethale said there are certain laws in place when it comes to relocating the homeless. While people are not allowed to camp in public parks, they are allowed to sleep on benches. If someone is camping on public property, an officer can only ask someone to relocate if there is room for the person to go to a shelter.
“That’s why when we get those types of calls, we have to make a determination on the scene, you know, they are hanging out, this is their right just like everybody else,” said officer Schwiethale.
The Wichita Homeless Outreach Team said while some shelters are closed right now, they do still have programs to try to help get people off of the streets. If you see someone in need of help, they are asked to call the police department’s team at (316) 854-3013.